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An exercise like Nordic walking can help reduce your risk of heart disease. It can also help you control your weight, reduce blood pressure and cholesterol and improve your mental health – helping you to look and feel great.

This week I’m focusing on heart health.  There are lots of different ways to improve the health of your heart through exercise.  I’m sure you’ve all heard of interval training, where you mix steady state walking with bursts of high intensity aerobic/anaerobic activity (such as hills or fast walking).  We do this a lot during our one hour fitness classes.  It helps strengthen the heart wall and increases your metabolic rate, thus boosting calorie burning and weight loss.

Today, though, I want to look at the benefits of steady state training.  Those of you that came to my 9am session yesterday or some of our evening sessions last week will have benefited from this type of training.

Steady state training (where you are working at a moderate intensity – more of this in my next blog) works to increase stroke volume.  This is the amount of blood pumped out by the heart with each beat.

By keeping your heart rate in a particular range over an extended period of time (our one hour fitness classes being an ideal length) the chambers of your heart fill repeatedly with large volumes of blood.  The walls on the left side of it respond to this by stretching and you gradually end up with a larger left ventricular cavity.  The result is a lower resting heart rate, lower exercising heart rate, and a healthier more efficient heart overall.

The key with steady state training is that it enables the chambers to fill completely.  The optimum heart rate range varies depending on your age and fitness levels but, for an average 55 year old, it is somewhere between 115 and 135 beats per minute.  Any higher and the heart is generally beating too fast for the chambers to fill fully.  It means that the walls of the left ventricle do not get stretched and you don’t stimulate the same adaptation.

Next week I will be looking at the different training zones of high, moderate and light intensity, how you can work out your maximum heart rate and then use this to monitor and improve your fitness.