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By Sarah Romotsky, R.D.  Date: 2/17/12

I’ve been teaching spinning classes for more than seven years now and have watched people transform their lives, both physically and mentally, through exercise. When I ask people who come to my spin class why they enjoy it and keep coming back, the answer usually involves something about muscle tone and weight loss/management. These responses are not surprising, since these are the benefits of exercise we can see. They are the tangible results that come with physical activity that help let you know that the physical activity you are doing is making a difference.

But there are also intangible benefits that we often don’t correlate with exercise because they can’t be seen in a mirror or measured on a scale. The most important muscle in our body, our heart, receives tons of benefits from physical activity and this may often be overlooked as a huge contributor to our quality of life and overall health. In honor of American Heart Month, I think it’s important to shed a little light on the critical role physical activity plays in maintaining optimal heart health.

The positive effects of physical activity on heart health are extremely significant and although they can’t necessarily be seen, they can certainly be measured.  According to the American Heart Association, 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day reduces coronary heart disease in women by 30-40 percent and reduces the risk of stroke by at least 20 percent in moderately active people.  And for each hour of exercise you get, you’ll gain about two hours of additional life expectancy.  Exercise helps us live longer, healthier lives by strengthening our hearts and cardiovascular systems, improving circulation and lowering blood pressure.

While all types of exercise are important, including strengthening and stretching, cardiovascular or aerobic exercise delivers the most benefit for your heart. This type of exercise is defined by steady activity using large muscle groups. An example of this type of exercise in a spin class would be riding with resistance on your bike while engaging all of your leg muscles. Another example would be swimming, which engages multiple large muscle groups such as the back, chest and leg muscles.

Aerobic activity improves the body’s ability to use oxygen by strengthening your heart and lungs. Good news – you don’t have to be in a gym seven days a week to get these heart healthy benefits from aerobic exercise.  The U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults participate in 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activities, or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous physical aerobic activity, or a combination of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity, over the course of the week. Examples of moderate intensity activities include walking fast and dancing. Vigorous intensity activities include things like running, climbing stairs and playing basketball. Remember: Fun stuff counts as exercise! Getting active can be anything from playing soccer with the family in the backyard to dancing to music with friends.

Whether it is spinning or another activity you enjoy, be active your way. There are so many different possibilities for incorporating physical activity into your life and the benefits are far greater than what you may think.  From the bottom of my heart, I encourage you to live an active, healthy life. Your heart will thank you!

For additional resources on heart health and exercise, please visit:

Aerobic Activity

Finding Time for Activity-Let’s Get Physical




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