Pump your heart with purposeful exercise

If you have ever shoveled a foot of snow, you were either happy or frustrated with your physical condition. Maybe you noticed that your heart was beating fast or that you tired faster than you expected. These signals most likely forced you to take a break.

On average, our heart will beat about 60 to 100 times per minute, but it can beat much faster or slower when needed. To understand how hard your heart works, try this quick activity: Squeeze your hand 60 or 100 times in one minute. After 60 squeezes, I bet your hand went off rhythm, lost count or felt tired and achy. Imagine doing this 100,000 times, which your heart does every day.

Knowing your heart’s beats per minute gives you a baseline for cardiovascular fitness. When you know your heart rate, you can exercise with purpose, setting goals to improve your heart pumping capacity. Here’s how to get the most out of your heart-strengthening cardiovascular exercise:

Learn how your heart beats

  • Check your pulse throughout the day. Learn how your heart rate reacts to specific daily activities and exercises. Notice how it increases or decreases in reaction to various daily needs.
  • Know your resting heart rate. Take your pulse before you get out of bed in the morning.
  • Know your exercise heart rate. Try different exercises, speeds and levels that challenge your heart to beat harder and faster or slower and more controlled on purpose.

Commit to an exercise routine that raises your heart rate

  • Commit to at least one exercise that challenges your heart to practice pumping at your target heart rate range, improving its condition with purpose. Make sure the exercises contribute to heart health improvement.
  • Decide how many times each week you will work out with the goal of increasing your heart rate.
  • Use a seven-day plan to schedule which specific sets of times you will exercise.