Keep Your Heart Marching to a Good Beat
All aspects of health require a multi-pronged approach. The heart is truly at the center of it all, and in Chinese medicine it is considered to be the monarch ruling over all other internal organs. But at the end of the day, it is a muscle, and as such needs to be used and pushed to remain strong. While plant based diets remain essential to keeping the heart healthy, here are two equally important activities that can keep your internal rhythm going strong.
Saunas feel great. They are relaxing, they help us sweat out toxins, and allow our muscles to relax after a rigorous workout. Recent research conducted in Finland by Dr. Tanjianiina Laukkanen has helped paint a more elaborate picture of the benefits of frequent sauna use.
Dr. Laukkanen’s research was done over a 20 year period. It has shown that frequent sauna use can improve cardiovascular health significantly, in addition to reducing all cause mortality rates. These studies involved high amounts of heat for 15 minutes per session, with at least 2 sessions per week. The mechanisms involved are still being explored, but it is thought that the process is similar to moderate exercise - without putting any strain on the skeletal muscles. By making the heart work harder for about 15 minutes at a time and getting the individual to sweat, the effects are lower blood pressure, lowered incidence of arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat patterns), and improved circulation in the arms, legs, and skin. Sauna sessions also have a positive effect on our stress response and the nervous system, as well as lowering levels of norepinephrine released from the adrenal glands.
We love exercise. We can’t stop singing the praises of it with regards to both mental and physical health (which we all know is inseparable). Regardless of the type that you choose to do, you need to engage in some form of exercise every day as if your life depends upon it—quite simply because it does.
Extensive research has shown that moderate daily physical activity lasting over 2 hours has significant positive impacts on cardiovascular health, in addition to staving off other metabolic issues including type 2 diabetes. A recent piece in Scientific American, penned by professor Herman Pontzer, highlights his work with hunter-gatherers to uncover the myriad benefits of extensive exercise on the body. His findings are profound. According to the piece, endurance-type exercise can help reduce chronic inflammation, reduce cortisol, and help our bodies create energy stores for our muscles from the food that we eat, instead of making more fat.
If anything, this is a nice reminder from science that we need to move more often throughout the day. This can take many shapes in your life. Here are some suggestions:
Get up at least once an hour from your desk to move and get the blood pumping.
Park further away from work so that you have to walk more to get to and from the office.
Make a habit of taking short, brisk walks after each meal of the day.
Incorporate a low-impact exercise, like Tai Chi, into your daily exercise regimen.