Quick! Can you tell me how many minutes a week you elevate your heart rate to a moderate or vigorous intensity aerobic level? Me neither... But I'm on a new mission to track this figure. This blog post will encourage you to join me in elevating your heart rate regularly through aerobic activity. I'll share 9 tips that include what I've learned from my doctor (and Hugh Jackman!) and some of the exercises and equipment I use. Tip #5 will explain the magical power of working out on a rower, which is in the photo below of my basement home gym. Before we go further, let me share with you this encouraging news: your energy level throughout the day will go UP significantly IF you regularly elevate your heart rate by exercising.
1. Heart Disease is real: The older we get, the more important it is to elevate our heart rate throughout the week to keep our hearts healthy, which requires discipline. I'm sure you've heard this before, but take moment to really let this sink in: Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, causing about 1 in 4 deaths. Elevating your heart rate improves your metabolic health, which in turn also helps you drop excess weight and stay lean. Our hearts need to be exercised!
2. Consult your Doctor: One important note before we go further: please consult your doctor before embarking on an exercise regime that will elevate your heart rate throughout the week. Elevating your heart rate regularly should be a gradual building up process over time. If you overdo it too quickly, you can cause a heart attack.
3. Aerobic exercise is key: When I had elevated cholesterol a few years ago, my doctor shared with me this terrific advice from The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) to 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination... Preferably, aerobic activity should be spread throughout the week." Thanks in part to this advice, I was able to reduce my cholesterol and drop 20 lbs of weight through a mix of eating health and exercise, which you can read about at this link.
4. Build out a home gym: I believe the best way to get regular aerobic exercise is to be able to do it in your own house! Truly. You reduce the "friction" of working out when you don't have to drive to a gym. Ideally you roll out of bed in the morning and get your workout in before the day begins. Calculate how much per month you spend in gym memberships per year. Then, instead of spending that amount at a gym, invest it in a home gym equipment. Ideally start with some cardio equipment - a rower, treadmill, bike, elliptical - and then start building up your strength training equipment. Retired Navy SEAL Jocko Willink inspired me to build out a home gym, and I wrote about Jocko at this link. #getafterit
5. Rowers are magic! Okay, if you can only invest in one piece of home equipment, I would start with a rower. It is one of the best all-body cardio workouts you can do! I honestly never used a rower until about a month ago and I'm hooked. Don't laugh, but I listened to a podcast interview of Hugh Jackman where Tim Ferris asked Hugh if he was on a desert island and could only have one piece of gym equipment, what would it be? Hugh responded quickly: "a rower." He went on to say that it is a hard workout that most people avoid, but a great workout if you want to get lean. (and I want to get lean!) Hugh recommended rowing hard for only 10 minutes a day, 4 days a week. Well, I got so motivated by this podcast, that I bought this rower on Amazon for $260 right away. I have since been rowing 15 to 30 minutes a day, about 4 days a week. It has been incredible! Rowing elevates my heart rate much more quickly and sustainably than other aerobic activity. While I really do like the rower I bought on Amazon, ultimately I'm sure I'll invest in a Concept 2 rowing machine in the future. (Make sure you watch some rowing technique videos before you start rowing for the first time.)
6. Apple/Smart Watch: You'll see in my photo above that my Apple Watch tracks my heart rate throughout a workout, which is super helpful. I highly recommend investing in some sort of smart watch that will help you track your heart rate during workouts. One reason I really like the Apple Watch is because of it's ability to alert you to irregular heart patterns 24 x 7.
7. Strength training is important: Okay, with all of this talk above about the importance of aerobic exercise, don't forget that strength training is so important for our health too as we get older. Per the American Cancer Society, 5 benefits of two or three strength training sessions weekly are: increased muscle mass, strong bones, joint flexibility, weight control and balance. You can actually do a lot of strength training with just your body weight, such as push-ups, sit ups, and burpees. And you can invest in some home gym equipment. So far I've invested $200 in a tower for pull ups, dips, and crunches, $200 in a weight bench, and a few hundred more buying an Olympic bar and weight plates on eBay. During this pandemic eBay is one of the few places to find some sports equipment, but watch out for price gouging.
8. Audio when working out: I realize that not everyone can do this, but I have found that I can generally multi-task when working out. What I mean by this is that I can listen to an audio book or podcast when working out, so that I can learn while I sweat! :) Currently I listen to the One Year Bible's daily readings when rowing, followed by an audio book and then occasionally music when I simply need motivation. I listen to audio via my iPhone and these cheap but effective $20 bluetooth wireless headphones. (AirPods don't work for me - they fall out of my ears when working out.)
9. Closing Scripture Verse: In my life I have found that I cannot self discipline myself to workout regularly. I need God's Grace. I need the Grace of Discipline. I'll close this blog post out with this Scripture verse for you to meditate upon: "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV
I hope this blog post inspires you to get moving regularly to benefit your heart health! What tips or advice have I missed? Please share in the comments below!
p.s. The purpose of this blog is to encourage you to live a more disciplined life, by God's Grace. I'd be honored if you'd subscribe to my blog's emails to alert you of new blog posts at: www.mikepritchard.com/subscribe.html