May 28, 2024

Swimming and your Heart Health by Becky Flanigan

The more you exercise a muscle, the stronger it gets – and that includes the heart muscle. Since over a million people will suffer heart attacks each year, doing things which will make the heart stronger just makes good sense.

Why is swimming such good heart exercise?

The cardiovascular aspect. The resting heart rate is about 10 beats per second lower when a person is in the water, and the maximum heart rate will be 10 to 30 beats lower in the water. A swimmer’s heart will pump the same amount of blood as in other exercise, but do it more slowly. While no one completely understands why this happens, it is thought to be due to decreased gravity and the lower temperature of water. This gives swimming an advantage over land exercise, allowing the heart to grow stronger and pump more oxygen to the body. Here are a few resources with more information:

Swimming Saved My Life

Heart Health and Swimming Pools

Swimming and Heart Health

Lower risk of heart disease. Swimming burns calories and builds muscles, so a regular regimen of water workouts will boost the metabolism. This will help in managing weight, which will reduce the risk of obesity and heart disease. The American Heart Association states that 30 minutes of aerobic exercise each day lowers the blood pressure, which also reduces the risk of heart disease.

Check with the doctor. Before you begin a swimming routine to improve your heart health, check with the doctor, to make sure she/he clears you to exercise. Ask him how much exercise you should begin with. While the guideline for adults is 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, set that as a goal to work for over time – don’t just try to begin at that level.

Start slowly. If you are new to working out, particularly swimming, don’t overdo at first. Swimming is a strenuous form of exercise, so it is suggested that beginners start with 12 to 20 minutes of swimming, and over time, let the length of your swims gradually increase. The best beginning stroke is freestyle.

To get in a great aerobic workout, which strengthens your heart without stressing other body parts, it’s tough to beat swimming. The best bonus – how great you feel after a good swim!

Becky Flanigan writes for, and her areas of expertise are kids and parenting, exercise and health. She is avid about her workouts, which have ranged from aqua jogging to marathon training. She and her husband Ed also enjoy entertaining, and taking vacations with their 3 kids.

Is Heart Rate Training for You? By Jason Saltmarsh

Would you like to run longer and faster with less effort? Heart rate training can help you reach that goal. A heart rate monitor provides real-time biofeedback during your workouts to help you stay in the optimal training zone. Consult your physician to determine your specific target heart rate zones as they vary based on fitness goals, medications and state of health.

Determining Your Maximum and Minimum Heart Rate
To find your target heart rate zone, you’ll need to know your maximum heart rate and your resting heart rate. Then, you can determine several training zones between those two extreme values. The idea is that you use the heart rate data during your workout to stay in the intended heart rate zone. Some people choose to run by pace per mile speeds, while others by their ability to carry on a conversation. Heart rate training is based solely on BPM (beats per minute).

The American Heart Association recommends a method for identifying your maximum heart rate. Their method is to simply subtract your age from 220. For example, if you are thirty years old, you get the following: 220-30=190.

Determining your resting heart rate by taking your pulse for one minute just after waking up, or while sitting down relaxing. Athletes usually find their resting rate is around 60 BPM.

Determining Your Heart Rate Training Zones
Variety is the spice of life and the cure for ‘lazy’ running. Runners aren’t lazy, but their approach to training may be if they’re doing the same thing, at the same effort, day after day. To see improvements, you’ll need to mix things up and challenge yourself in a variety of ways.

The advantage to heart rate training is that it’s based solely on your own biofeedback. External measures such as pace per mile do not interfere with your results. For example, if you run a flat 6 mile course on a cool day at 8:00 pace, how does that compare to running 6 miles on a hilly course under a scorching sun at 8:30 pace?

Final Thoughts
Training principles remain the same no matter what method you use. A blend of long and short, easy and hard, fast and slow, and plenty of rest will keep you fit and healthy. Heart rate training offers you an exact measure of effort and gives you the certainty of knowing that you are training at your intended level of exertion.


Jason Saltmarsh is an competitive masters runner at distances ranging from 5K to the half marathon. In November 2013, he raced his first 26.2 at the iconic New York City Marathon. Jason’s goal is to share with others the benefits and joys of running, fitness and healthy living. For more information, please visit

4 Common Workout Mistakes by Julie Mulcahy

Congratulations on your New Years Resolution to exercise and get fit! Following some simple guidelines in the gym will maximize your fitness gains and reduce risk of injury.

Here are 4 common workout mistakes new exercisers make at the gym:

Overtraining: The gym is always full of new exercisers in January. They are wearing all their bright and shiny fitness gear, ready to tackle their New Years Resolutions. They hit the ground running, literally! These can be sedentary people just starting out, or seasoned exercisers who don’t listen to the messages their bodies are sending. These folks push themselves so hard to try to make fast gains, the next day they can hardly walk down stairs or get out of a chair without muscle soreness and then they hit the gym again.  Starting a program too intense and never letting your body rest can lead to numerous injuries. Muscle soreness can result from high volumes of stress to the muscle. Stressing the muscle further in this state can slow the process of growth. The remedy for this is to listen to your body! If you work hard on squats and lunges,  work your upper body the next day. After a long hard run, try yoga or swimming the following day. This allows the muscle fibers the rest and growth they need to perform better. Although consistency is important, most proper, safe training plans allow for rest days. These are well deserved breaks to help grow muscle. Listen to your body!

Same routines: One huge mistake I have observed in the gym is doing the same routine day after day. I often see runners on the treadmill logging miles while they never venture into the free weight area. I see the muscle bound weight lifters pumping iron and never leaving the weight room. Your body gets accustomed to the same exercise routine and will become more efficient. This efficiency can lead to plateaus in weight loss and slow your fitness gains and can lead to repetitive use injuries. Change up your program! Try a new activity that will recruit different muscle fibers and build strength and endurance in new and different ways. Consult a trainer to teach you how to use other pieces of equipment you may not be familiar with. Make sure your fitness program has a strength, endurance and stretching component that is varied regularly.

Poor Form and Posture: Form and Posture are critical for proper performance. I frequently see gym goers lifting weights with rounded backs and protracted shoulders and moving so quickly that accessory muscles kick in  causing improper muscle substitutions. Many injuries can result from this technique including back pain and shoulder tendinitis. This is not unique to the weight room,  I have observed people in a forward bent posture leaning over the elliptical and resting on treadmill handles as if they will slide off the end if they let go. Proper pelvic neutral posture is the solution for all these scenarios. Gently cue your abdominal muscles by drawing your belly button in toward your spine. Keep shoulders aligned with ear lobes, do not let shoulders roll forward. Try all new activities slowly, with light weights and progress the weight when you have correct form.  Check your posture frequently in the mirrors. The mirrors are actually there for that reason. Your posture on your last repetition should be as good as your first.

Machines, machines, machines: Most often weight machines isolate specific muscle groups . Muscles in our bodies rarely work in isolation. Most weight machines do not simulate real life and often put the exerciser in a non functional seated position that does not fully engage the core. Our bodies benefit more from functional training. This means training in positions that occur in daily activities such as pushing, pulling, squatting and lifting with core activation. For example, standing in a pelvic neutral position while performing a free weight bicep curl also works your core. To singe even more calories, do the same bicep curl standing on the bosu ball, which challenges balance and gets leg muscles activated. Doing standing squats and lunges with medicine balls or free weights works many muscle groups of the upper, lower body and core simultaneously.  Incorporating weighted pulley systems, physioballs, and medicine balls challenge core and balance, while strengthening multiple muscle groups which torches many more calories than isolated weight machine moves.

Julie Mulcahy M.P.T is a licensed Physical Therapist with over 19 years experience in sports medicine and orthopedics. Julie is also busy mom of 4 children and a marathon runner. She may be reached by email, or via Twitter @PTrunningmomof4

Being Run Ready by Dr. Kent Sasse

It is the time of year when the temperature encourages people to lace up their sneakers and every weekend boasts a run (or two.) Planning to run a marathon, half marathon, or even a 10K requires training and proper maintenance for your body. For beginners it is especially important to begin a regimen and educate yourself on best habits.

Listen to your body. It is not how fast you run today, or even how far; it is about how many years you can enjoy running. For older runners or those with injuries, don’t run if it hurts. Give your body a chance to heal. Take advantage of the days you feel good and go on longer runs, push yourself, and seize the opportunity.

Run with a partner that can encourage and motivate you. Training with others with a similar interest and passion for running means you can train for events together, swap training techniques, engage in a little friendly competition or maybe even participate in a relay as team.

Hydration. Water is obviously integral to successful and healthy running, but even more so in extreme conditions of heat and altitude. Hydrate before your runs by drinking water right before, hours before, and even days before. You will recognize hydration by (almost) colorless urine. Drink water consistently rather than consuming more than 16 oz. before a run itself. Drinking enormous amounts of water prior to a run can cause issues so hydrate often rather than in huge doses. If water stops are not on your runs- and even if they are- supplement with a water belt.

Food Intake. Eat your normal balanced breakfast a couple hours before a strenuous run; normalcy is easier for your body to digest. Stay away from heavy meals, and opt for oatmeal and bagels and bananas. Don’t forget a dose of protein as well to keep those muscles happy.

Dr. Sasse founded Western Bariatric Institute and iMetabolic. He is also the author of numerous books and a featured speaker nationally in the field of weight loss.