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Health – February is Heart Month

Written by Sheila Cook

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Heart thumping experiences inside Hintertux Glacier | June 2016

February is Heart Month

One of the things I love about hiking is feeling my heart pound. To me it feels different than the heavy heart thumping that grips me when I remember that I forgot to do something important or the quick heart flutters that invade when I’m having an anxious moment. I’m not so keen on these feelings. But the steady drumming in my chest that happens when I’m steadily climbing or striding along - that brings a joyous sense of being alive.

Many of us try to get 10,000 steps a day, which is an admirable goal and a good start on the way to a healthier cardiovascular system. However, if you want to train for a sport or a demanding activity such as hiking, then you need to challenge your heart muscle and exercise within your training heart rate zone. I can hear the groans if you’re thinking “does she mean I have to start running?” Absolutely not! I’m talking about low impact ways you can build your cardiovascular fitness that are easy on your joints. There are many ways to boost your heart rate without jarring feet, knees, hips and backs. 
With fitness equipment
  • Elliptical trainer
  • Rowing machine
  • Treadmill walking up slope
  • Cycling
Without fitness equipment
  • Walking with poles
  • X-Country Skiing
  • Yoga sun salutations
  • Circuit training
  • Brisk walking (walk quickly between 2 hydro poles and then at your regular pace between the next 2 - repeat) 
What’s your training heart rate zone?
Do this simple calculation.
  • 220 - (minus) your age = Maximum Heart Rate
    (Example:. 220 - 55 = 165 beats per minute)
    It is recommended that you NOT train at this rate. If your heart rate is at this high level, you should slow down and/or not work so hard.
  • Exercising 60-85% of your maximum is a good training zone.

    If you’re just starting out try 4 weeks at 60% and then gradually work your way up. Measure your heart beat. Example:
    220 -(minus) 55 x 60% = 90 beats per minute;
    220 -(minus) 55 x 85% = 140 beats per minute
  • Here’s my new favourite exercise for boosting my heart rate and building leg and butt strength. You need a sturdy chair or couch that will not move. You may need to place the chair against a wall. Sit toward the front of the chair. Feet hip distance apart. Right foot slightly ahead of the left. Cross your arms over your chest. Push into your back foot and stand up. Sit back down. Repeat 5-30 times. Then place your left foot slightly ahead of your right and repeat. If you’re feeling sluggish, this is a quick energizer.
A note of caution, consult with your health care provider before ramping up your fitness program especially if you have blood pressure or heart health issues. Canadian fitness guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of heart pumping cardiovascular exercise a week. 
Simple Living for Holidays
As a reward - Sieghard's ice cream and dark chocolate.


Talking about rewards, I also love dark chocolate. High quality dark chocolate may be good for heart health because it contains flavanols. In addition to having antioxidant qualities, research shows that flavanols have other potential influences on vascular health, such as lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the brain and heart, and making blood platelets less sticky and able to clot. 

Nature’s perfect food!

Your Camp Rangers,
Sheila Cook & Reinhard Zitzmann

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