We Asked Fitness Experts Their Best Tips For Heart Health: Here Is What They Had To Say

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We Asked Fitness Experts Their Best Tips For Heart Health: Here Is What They Had To Say

In this month filled with love for the people in our lives, we want to focus on one of our most important organs—the heart. When it comes to working out, fueling your most precious moments, feeling a sense of calmness, and more, your heart is at the center of it all. So, we pulled in the experts—leaders on our Fitness Team—to get their tips for optimal heart health.

What Is Your Resting Heart Rate?

To start this conversation, we want to set a baseline for heart health. One way to see how well your heart functions is to get to know your resting heart rate. While it is not the only measurement for heart health, having a lower heart rate typically means that your heart is running well. Top athletes usually have a resting heart rate of 40 bpm (beats per minute) or lower, and the average person tends to sit somewhere between 60 to 100 beats per minute.

We asked Ryan Owen, Fitness Manager at our Littleton Colorado location, about the importance of a resting heart rate and how to lower it if you are on the higher end of BPM: 

“The heart is the most important muscle in the body and cardiovascular exercise is the key to lowering your resting heart rate.  Cardiovascular exercise strengthens your heart just as curls would for your biceps or squats for your glutes. Participating in a variety of different types of cardiovascular exercise will lead to the best results when trying to lower your resting heart rate. HIIT, such as our Team Training sessions, as well endurance training, such as running, swimming, or biking for longer distances allow your heart to take on any type of exertion level throughout your day and lead to a lower resting heart rate.”

HIIT For Heart Health

Jessica Ochoa, Fitness Manager at our Grant & Oracle locations in Tucson, Arizona, agrees, naming HIIT as her favorite cardio exercise for heart muscle health. HIIT workouts are characterized by 1-4 minutes of intense exercise, followed by 1-4 minutes of rest. By training your body to work intensely and then rest, you are building cardiovascular strength.

Other Ways To Exercise Your Heart

While HIIT might interest some of us, it seems a little daunting for others—and that’s A-ok. In fact, your favorite exercise will more than likely lead you to a stronger heart. We asked the Fitness Manager at our Highlands Ranch Colorado location, Sam Murtaugh, what heart-healthy exercise they would love if everyone tried, and their advice was f-u-n, “To dance every day! Not only will dancing help with your physical heart health, but it’s almost guaranteed to make you smile. Plus, it makes some of my favorite memories! Grab someone you love and dance the night away!”

We love this advice because it illustrates how fun staying healthy can be. Want to dance it out? Do it! Love swimming? Make it a routine! Motivated by High-Intensity workouts? Work it out! There are so many options for all of us to have a fun and well-rounded routine that makes us excited to sweat. In fact, you can try your favorite workout at any of our locations, or follow instructor-lead classes in our virtual fitness platform iChuze Fitness. (Try it free for 7-days!)

Cardio vs. Strength Training: Which Is Better?

For this answer, we got some advice from Kevin Camara, MS, CSCS, Regional Fitness Manager of our California, Arizona, and New Mexico locations, for his thoughts on the subject: 

“In terms of optimizing heart health, strength training is going to be more beneficial than cardio. Circuit training is a form of strength training and achieves similar benefits as cardio. Performing exercises targeting different body parts with short rest intervals will result in increased heart rate and respiratory rate similar to when performing cardio. The increase in heart rate and respiratory rate is going to provide the benefits of cardio, also while achieving the benefits of strength training. Circuit training is not going to be optimal for strength training because generally, the weight load has to be reduced because of the increase in fatigue. Both cardio and strength training should not be ignored. Both have their place in maintaining heart health. For those with little time to exercise, circuit training can be a great option to achieve both the health benefits of strength training and cardio. 

To find an optimal routine, taking into account what is sustainable long term should be the biggest consideration. Creating a routine that is hours long or inconvenient is not going to be beneficial if it only lasts a month or two. 

My optimal routine is finding 20 minutes every day to circuit train and taking every opportunity to be active with my family—which may include playing basketball, tag, stroller jogging, or walking. Within the circuit of exercises I perform, I make sure to target all large muscle groups by including a squat variation, upper body pull, deadlift variation, and upper body push. An example is below.

  1. Split Squat 6-10 reps each
  2. Bent Over Row 6-10 reps
  3. Single Leg RDL 6-10 reps 
  4. Banded Push Ups 6-10 reps 

*15-30 seconds rest between each exercise

What is most important is finding what you enjoy because that will make staying consistent with your routine long-term much easier.”

What About Heart-Healthy Food?

As we know, every healthy routine has to start and end with food. But, instead of restricting yourself, Robin Cortez, MS, our Director of Team Training, has different advice. We asked her what one food she would cut out of everyone’s diet if she was given a magic wand, and her answer was powerful:

“I would use that magic wand, rather, to create a more universal understanding that restricting often leads to overcompensating and will more often than not backfire. Restricting is problematic in so many ways for our health, including the heart. With that magic wand, I’d instead encourage people to ADD heart-healthy foods into their diet if they’re missing them at the moment. Ryan’s got great suggestions about what that could look like.”

So, What Foods Should You Add To Your Plate To Increase Heart Health?

Ryan Hogan, Fitness Manager at our Rancho Cucamonga California location, shares:

“Some of the best foods for increasing heart health are leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale. These vegetables are high in vitamin K which protects arteries and promotes proper blood clotting. A great way to incorporate them into any healthy diet is to add a small salad with one of your meals each day. You can also add a little olive oil, which is high in monounsaturated fats and has been shown to reduce risk of heart disease, to give yourself a light, heart-healthy addition to your favorite meals!”

The conclusion? Build a routine around the things that you love and work to a healthy heart through moving your body and adding heart-healthy foods to your plate. It’s not about working out three hours a day, seven days a week, and restricting yourself to avoid all of your favorite foods. It’s about finding what you love to do and then sticking with it!

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What Does Heart Health Mean To Our Team?

For our final question, we asked each of these experts to share what heart health means to them and how they care for their hearts each day. We leave you with these answers:

Jessica Ochoa | Fitness Manager | Grant & Oracle, AZ

Heart health means making choices that help me avoid heart disease. My heart is my most important muscle. Just the way I take care of my other muscles, I customize my heart workouts to include at least 150 mins of steady cardio or 75 mins of vigorous cardio per week. In regards to my diet, I make sure to limit my fatty foods and include at least one vegetable at every meal. Some studies have found that gum disease and heart disease may be associated, so don’t forget to floss. 

Kevin Camara, MS, CSCS | Regional Fitness Manager | CA, AZ, and NM

What heart health means to me is being capable of playing with my kids for extended periods of time, also being capable of performing physical tasks or chores around our home. I don’t want to ever have to worry about my health when playing with my kids, helping a family member move, or doing household chores. I find time to be active and exercise every day because I want to maintain my heart health and physical abilities well into my older years of life. 

Ryan Owen | Fitness Manager | Littleton, CO

Everything. Heart health is my sport of choice now that I am no longer playing football. Improving my heart health assures me that I get to live my life with no limitations. I care for my heart health by including a variety of cardiovascular exercise in my weekly programming. I complete at least 3 HIIT (high-intensity interval training) sessions a week, whether on my own or hitting up one of our Team Training sessions. To be honest, I truly struggle with aerobic exercise; therefore, I have to set up goals for myself by signing up for 5k or 10k races to get that extra motivation to hit the pavement and rack up those miles. 

Ryan Hogan | Fitness Manager | Rancho Cucamonga, CA

To me, heart health comes first. Having a strong, healthy heart makes challenging myself in other ways easier. To care for my heart, I make sure to ask myself, “Am I treating my body the way I need to, so I still feel good 20, 30, 40 years from now?”

Robin Cortez, MS | Director of Team Training at Chuze Fitness

Heart health means having the ability to effectively pump blood and deliver sufficient nutrients and oxygen to meet my body’s demands. My heart is healthiest when there is a balance between parasympathetic and sympathetic activity. It can’t be one or the other exclusively. I care for my heart by being consistently active and listening to my body’s cues when it’s time to be less active and relax. 

Sam Murtaugh | Fitness Manager | Highlands Ranch, CO

Heart health, to me, is being able to go on adventures with family and friends without worrying about my physical capabilities. I am very mindful of what I am putting into my body every day. I prioritize my health in every decision I make. I always want to feel like I am living my life to the fullest!

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