What are a Physical Therapist’s Suggestions to Help in Maintaining a Heart Healthy Lifestyle?
In recognition of February being American Heart Health month, TS’s most recent blog post is from one of our physical therapists, Sarah Johnson, on the topic of maintaining a heart healthy lifestyle even though you may be hindered or limited phsically due to injury or pain. Here is what she had to say:
Sarah Johnson: My first suggestion is I usually ask patients just to be a little bit more active than they currently are. So, if they’re not currently involved in an exercise program, then I ask them to pick the best time of day for them, and go for a walk out their front door for, say, five minutes away from their house, turn around, walk back, and have that be done for the day. Then, each day therafter just walk away from their house five minutes, come back, and after about a week, if they’re not having any problems with that, then they can increase the time by a minute or two. They’re just slowly increasing their endurance.
What type of impact is that having on the health of their heart?
Sarah Johnson: It’s giving them a little bit more aerobic capacity than they had, then, say, the day before. Because if they’re doing nothing, primarily being sedentary, sitting in their home or just short bouts, minutes at a time, then this helps to increase the demand on their heart just a little bit more. By doing it slowly, they’re less likely to have any adverse reactions.
What’s one other thing that a patient could do in order to improve the health of their heart?
Sarah Johnson: Normally, we always want the parking spot that’s closest to the store. We ask our patients to purposely try to park even just a few spots further away. If they have a handicapped placard and they’re having a good day, maybe they choose not to use it that day. As they notice that their walking tolerance improves, have them park even further the next day. In other words, be mindful of walking further. Maybe that means walking to their lunch spot rather than driving the five minutes to go pick it up.
What kind of difference have you seen this make in patients’ lives, at least those that really commit to it and do it?
Sarah Johnson: It usually shows them that they do have time to do a formal exercise program. They may start small, and maybe after the course of a month or two, then they’re able to regularly do 20 to 30 minutes per day. And eventually, they’ll work their way to what is recommended by the American Heart Association, which is 30 to 45 minutes per day.
As you can see, maintaining a healthy heart is doable regardless of your circumstances. The important thing to remember is to commit to doing it because your health depends upon it!