Here’s to Women’s Health and Fitness Day! (And your heart)

Drop everything, slide into some sweat-wicking material and get moving! Today is National Women’s Health and Fitness Day, and we enlisted Sabeena Ramrakhiani, MD, PPG – Cardiology, to offer some powerful motivation for those doubting the power of movement.

How does physical exercise benefit the heart?

Physical exercise helps to lower the risk of stroke and heart disease by not only keeping your weight in control and lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels, but also by changing the lipid profile to a more favorable one by increasing the good HDL. In general, physical activity also helps manage stress, and that is beneficial to the heart as well.

Which types of exercise are best?

The American Heart Association recommendation is to get 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise in a week, and moderate to high intensity muscle strengthening activity at least twice a week for cardiovascular health. Aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming, climbing stairs, biking, jogging etc. are beneficial for the heart. Strengthening and stretching, such as with weights, Pilates and yoga help us with overall stamina, flexibility and maintenance of core strength to prevent falls. CrossFit is a popular activity to encompass both goals.

What are some of the hurdles women face in regard to getting physical activity in?

Women are often tied up with multiple responsibilities on a day-to-day basis, including those at work and at home. Often, between a full time job, household chores and making sure family members, such as kids and elderly parents, are taken care of, women tend to put their health on a back-burner. Despite the multitasking, it is important for women to make time for themselves and their health. Exercise and stress reduction are key for them to maintain their health, both physical and mental.

How does stress affect the heart?

Stress raises certain hormones in our body that increase our heart rates and blood pressure, and can also adversely impact the contractility of the cardiac muscles. In addition, chronic stress can increase our weight and propensity for metabolic syndrome.

What are some of the best things women can do to reduce stress?

Multitasking is one of the factors that increases stress in our daily lives. Practicing mindfulness and focused breathing exercises, even if it’s just for a few minutes daily, helps lower stress.

If you could tell women to do one thing for themselves on Women’s Health and Fitness Day, what would it be?

Amidst all the chaos of life and days that feel like a whirlwind, please make time to take care of yourself, Superwoman!

 

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