The Basics of Heart Healthy Exercise

by Al Sears, MD on August 13, 2009 · 1 comment

By Al Sears, MD

The body does not want you to do this. As you run, it tells you to stop but the mind must be strong. You always go too far for your body.” 

 – Jacqueline Gareau, 1980 Boston Marathon champ

Nature fashioned your heart to adapt to challenges. In doing so, your heart eliminates unused capacity. If you train your heart to adapt to longer intervals of “cardio,” – like in a marathon, for example – you force your heart to sacrifice strength, power and reserve capacity.

Yet, strength, power and reserve capacity are exactly what your heart needs most to meet real world demands.

There’s only one way to build up the strength in your arms or legs. And that’s to physically challenge their power. Your heart is the same. You need to challenge its power – not duration – to make it stronger.

We get a great source of data about heart health from the landmark Harvard Health Professionals Study. Researchers followed over 7,000 people. They found that the key to exercise is not length or endurance. It’s intensity. The more energy a person exerted during exercise, the lower their risk of heart disease.

High intensity exercise can also help you live longer. Another Harvard study compared vigorous and light exercise. Those who performed exercise that is more vigorous had a lower risk of death than those who performed less vigorous exercise.

The best way to achieve high intensity workouts is to break the activity into short bursts. You can use any activity that will give your heart a bit of a challenge. My favorites are swimming, biking, running and elliptical machines.

I switch my patients among them to keep it fun and lower the chance of “overuse injuries.” What you use will depend on your level of fitness. The most important strategy is to increase your challenge gradually over time.

Your Ready-to-Use PACE® Program

About ten years ago, I developed a more effective heart-strengthening program. I call it PACE® for Progressively Accelerating Cardiopulmonary Exertion. It has produced dramatic results in my patients.

PACE® focuses on short bursts of exercise. I call them intervals. Break your exercise into short bouts then increase the intensity gradually as your conditioning improves. When you do this, it’s more enjoyable, more effective and safer than longer exercise at lower intensity.

Here’s a five-interval routine you can start right away:

Int 1 Rest Int 2 Rest Int 3 Rest Int 4 Rest Int 5 Rest

2 min 2min 90 sec 2 min 60 sec 2 min 40 sec 2 min 30 sec 2 min

Do the first interval at a low to moderate intensity. Then rest. But when you “rest,” I don’t mean stop. Your rest interval should be a slow, easy pace – like you’re walking.

On the second interval, boost the intensity. If you’re on a stationary bike, for example, you can turn up the resistance so it’s harder to pedal.

As the length of the interval goes down, the intensity should go up. By the time you do the thirty-second interval, you should give it everything you have.

If you haven’t exercised in a while, go slow at first. As you improve, give yourself an extra challenge each time you workout.

About the Author:  Dr. Al Sears is a practicing physician and the author of The Doctor’s Heart Cure.  He is a fitness and nutritional expert, and is certified by the American Board of Anti-Aging Medicine. To learn more about Dr. Sears’ practical health solutions, please click the following link to visit his website:

[Editor’s Comments: This is the exact same strategies I followed to lose over 40 lbs. a few years ago, and I am taking a similar approach now.

You can read about here =>> Linebacker Fitness Review

I hate to run long distances. I prefer short but intense interval workouts, and find them to be more effective and enjoyable (probably because they are over faster).

Dr. Sears recommends this strategy because it is a superior way to burn fat. He says that after four to six weeks, you’ll see your belly fat start to disappear. We’ll see what happens when I post the pictures in a few weeks.

If you want to learn more about the PACE® program, plus a whole lot more, check out Dr. Sears’ website: :]


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Michele August 14, 2009 at 10:09 pm

It is so funny, I was doing this without even realizing. I thought I liked this kind of work out because I was out of shape (especially the slower intervals in between). I always choose the set programs on the machines that had this type of program. These were always my favorite. Good to know I was doing it right all along.

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