Love Your Heart!

By Nelo Breda – February 17, 2012

The healthful benefits of exercising have been evident throughout the centuries, from Spartan warriors in peak physical condition fighting off their opposition to modern day men and women staying physically fit for the stresses of their office jobs. If you are an active reader of this magazine, you’re surely aware of the benefits of keeping fit and living a health-conscience lifestyle.

Most of us can enjoy the healthy results of regular exercise. Using a few variables, everyone might be able to design a regimen beneficial to his/her heart and vascular system. Regular aerobic exercise (ideally, forty minutes—within a target heart rate zone specified by age—four or five days per week) can prevent or postpone the onset of degenerative heart conditions. Lowered arterial blood pressure, reduced inflammation of the blood vessels' walls, increased blood perfusion of vital organs, and decreased resting heart rate that, along with lower arterial blood pressure, reduces heart load, are some of the physical benefits of regular aerobic exercise. As a bonus, exercising also improves emotional wellness!

To start, first calculate your target heart rate zone. Though there are different methods, the following formula is widely accepted: subtract your age from 220 (this number is based on statistics). The resulting number approximately represents the maximum heart rate (MHR). The MHR is the upper limit during workouts; no benefit to cardiovascular conditioning is received beyond this limit during workouts. Next, measure your resting heart rate (RHR) and subtract it from the MHR. This provides the Heart Rate Reserve (HRR). Multiply the HRR by .60 and .70 to give the lower and higher limits of the heart rate target zone (60% and 70% of the HRR respectively).

Keeping your heart rate within these limits during each workout session rewards the cardiovascular system. As a cyclist and middle-aged man, I favor cycling and swimming for their less stressful effects on the joints of the lower limbs over the long-range (if the bicycle is well-fit). Coincidentally, the torso of a cyclist is usually kept almost parallel to the ground, much like the torso of a swimmer, which in part helps the heart (and the calves) to pump the blood back to the heart from the legs.

Buy yourself a heart rate monitor. It is more precise and practical to check your pulse with a monitor than with fingers. With a monitor, it is not necessary to stop to take a pulse. Usually, the pulse drops while the seconds are counted, even just fifteen seconds!

Reward your heart and vascular system with a balanced and healthy diet, aware that your mind, too, needs to stay fit. Staying physically fit is simply one side of the coin. That additional hour on the bike, that extra mile running, or that morning yoga session would be done in vain if you don’t make the same level of commitment to keeping your mental and emotional health as well. Keeping your heart healthy, maintaining an active lifestyle, and taking the time to unwind mentally is as beneficial as keeping your bike’s drivetrain clean and tuned. After that, all you have to do is enjoy the smooth ride.

Nelo Breda began racing bicycles in 1969 as an amateur/ beginner. Rising through the cycling ranks, Breda established himself as one of the top racing cyclists to come out of Brazil. In 1973 and again in 1975 he represented Brazil, his native country, in the World Championships. Later, Breda was hired as coach for the Brazilian National Cycling Federation and took teams to many international races, including the 1979 Junior World Championships in Argentina, the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, the 1982 Giro d'Italia, the Pan American Games in 1983 and 1987, and the 1986 World Championships in Colorado Springs. Breda has received coaching degrees from the Comite International Olympique and the Federation International Amateur Cyclisme (F.I.A.C.), and is certified U.C.l. (Union Cycliste international)/ F.I.CA. National Coinmissaire.


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