Active Hobbies for Heart Health

One of the questions I often ask the audience in my education sessions is “Is the heart dependent on the brain for it’s pumping action?”

Well, what do you think?

Mind Heart Connection

The heart has its own automaticity and therefore does not depend on signals from the brain to do its work. However, we are all aware that there is a close relationship between our minds and our hearts. We often feel our hearts racing fast and thumping aloud especially in a stressful or fearful situation. And we also feel a calm spread across our chest and our heart beat in sync with our mood when we are happy and grateful.

These feelings are nothing but the result of the innumerable nervous and hormonal connections between the brain and the heart. In fact, this branch of medicine is called Behavioral Cardiology and is very much studied and researched in the present time.

Happy Chemicals

We now know that there are the happiness hormones such as dopamine, endorphin and serotonin and that these hormones are responsible for a lot of the feel-good phenomena associated with exercise and outdoor activities. If you have ever noticed, a session of brisk exercise like fast walking, jogging or running makes blood gush into your head, makes you feel confident and energetic, gives you clarity of thought and even helps you solve a crisis situation with a fresh outlook!

Active Hobbies

Think of which of these active hobbies resonate well with you…in other words, which of these do you think you would enjoy doing in your free time.

  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Skating
  • Rowing, Kayaking
  • Hiking
  • Gardening
  • Running
  • Dancing
  • Pilates
  • Surfing
  • Walking
  • Team Sports like football, basketball, hockey etc.
  • Individual sports like badminton, tennis, squash etc.

This is clearly not an exhaustive list but should definitely give you an idea of what an active hobby is: it is an activity that you love engaging in and something that lets you loose track of time.

Make time

You might think that a hobby is meant to keep you occupied in your free time but the aim of this blog post is to impress upon you that an active hobby needs to be pursued frequently to have a positive impact on your heart as well as overall health. Yes, it simply means you have to make time for your active hobbies. You have to learn to carve some time out of your daily routine to engage in one or more of these energy-boosting activities. And this time is known fondly as “ME TIME”.

Here are some tips to start taking time out for a healthy activity:

  1. Plan ahead & delegate – if you already have your plate full and are just about able to complete your daily tasks before hitting the bed, see if you can delegate some of your work and plan in advance for the time requirement of your active hobby.
  2. Prioritise – if there is one thing you should do for yourself everyday, it is 30 minutes of brisk exercise. So, try to swap your TV time, social media time or general chitchat time for a quick outdoor activity.
  3. Follow your passion – even if it’s your best friend, don’t feel bad to let him/her know that your interests are different from theirs; because if and only if you are passionate about the hobby will you pursue it relentlessly.
  4. Reward yourself – don’t be too hard on yourself; instead, reward yourself for your efforts and attempts at changing your lifestyle. Simple things like talking about your achievement to your friends or taking a much needed break as a reward might work wonders in keeping your motivation up.
  5. Activity groups – in the long run, knowing that someone you care about is equally interested in the activity you enjoy will help you stay focused and involved. But remember, it is not a competition or a power game, but a simple energy-expending, mind-refreshing and health-boosting activity that needs your continuous time and effort.

Let me sign off here but I sincerely hope that you are already thinking about YOUR active hobbies and ways to pursue them on a REGULAR basis!

Get set, Walk!

Believe it or not, walking is a great activity for physical and mental fitness. Being a physiotherapist, I will always recommend that my clients walk at least 40 minutes per day. And the cool part is it doesn’t need any equipment or trainer to monitor. That’s why walking is the best exercise to do whenever & wherever you are. It’s great for people who are trying to lose weight, the elderly, those who have diabetes, hypertension and other heart-related problems, and of course for anyone who wants to get fit. Brisk walking promotes good physical and mental health in middle-aged and elderly persons and hence it should become a priority to develop appropriate brisk walking programs in the community, say the authors of an article published in 2017 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1322769615001134.

Hippocrates, the Greek Physician born in 370 BC and fondly remembered as the “father of Medicine” said walking is the best medicine. It is the quintessential aerobic exercise that can be done by all irrespective of age, social status and cultural beliefs. The American Heart Association recommends brisk aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes for 5 days a week to maintain health and fitness http://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults

Did you know? Regular walking has significant beneficial effects on our body. Here are just a few of the benefits of your daily walk:

  • Controls your body weight
  • Regulates your blood pressure
  • Improves your heart health
  • Boosts your immune system
  • Strengthens your bones & muscles
  • Reduces your risk of developing chronic disease like cancer and dementia
  • Uplifts your mood… and many more!

So let me help you start walking with some easy tips: For beginners, I recommend the “five front, five back” walk plan. That’s right, you walk out for five minutes, turn around, and walk back. Increase by five minutes per week and reach 40 minutes of walking in a day. I think this is a realistic and achievable way to get started for an aerobic exercise. And remember to warm-up and cool-down before and after your brisk walking. If you would like to know more about warm-up and cool-down exercises, please click the link to our earlier newsletter http://cardiacwellnessinstitute.com/images/Newsletter-June2017.pdf

How to implement the Habit of Walking and stay motivated:

  • Use stairs instead of lifts/escalators
  • Park your vehicle far away from your office/grocery store and walk for a while
  • Arrange a walking meeting and walking phone calls
  • Walk with your kids or dogs
  • Join in walking groups
  • Walk with your friends but focus on your walk
  • Chose 2 to 3 different areas for your walks so you feel motivated and enjoy your daily walk without getting bored

Guess you are convinced enough to start walking! We have planned a Walkathon just to get you started. Cardiac Wellness Institute is organising Walk Chennai Walk on 29th September 2018 (World Heart Day) from 6.00-7.30 am in Elliot’s beach, Besant Nagar, Chennai. We have some fun events and cool sponsors lined up for the event. So join in and be a part of a healthy society and a better future. Please register yourself, your friends and walking buddies on https://www.townscript.com/e/walk-chennai-walk-324404.

Please contact us for group bookings of more than 10 participants.