Family First - Exercise daily for a healthier heart

February is Heart Health Month, and doctors emphasize exercise as a major part of keeping your heart in good shape.

SSM Health St. Mary's Hospital cardio-thoracic surgeon Dr. Allyson Walker talked to KRCG 13 about how to find the workout that's best for your heart.

"It's all about getting moving," she said. "It doesn't have to be huge or crazy - you don't have to grunt in the gym for four or five hours everyday. You just have to get your heart working, because just like any other muscle, it needs to be exercised to be at its best."

Dr. Walker said almost anything that's bad for your heart - stress, carrying extra weight, high cholesterol - can be helped by regular exercise.

"As far as exercise, you can get a pretty good surge of endorphins, so that's always good," she said. "Exercise, especially something like yoga, can be great for stress relief. And there's also just the satisfaction of completing something that's good for your overall health."

According to Dr. Walker, exercise is similar to brushing your teeth -- something you should do everyday to stay healthy.

"I don't see it any different than getting up, eating breakfast and going to work. You include it as part of your daily routine, and it should be part of your daily routine," she said.

Dr. Walker said that doesn't mean exercise should have to be a chore. "Find something that you like. Jogging outside, doing Crossfit, walking on a treadmill, or playing a sport... enjoy it and make it a permanent part of your daily activities," she said.

Other than picking a workout that appeals to you, Dr. Walker said almost everyone should consider weight training.

"Muscle is better, because actually, muscle burns more calories than fat, it revs up your metabolism," she said. "The more muscle you have, the better overall you'll feel, and the better overall you'll actually look."

Dr. Walker said she knows from personal experience that it isn't always easy to get started when it comes to making exercise a daily habit, but it's something that pays off. "It's a huge stress reliever for me," she said. "It's not always fun when you start, but by the time you're done, it's more than worthwhile."

To celebrate Heart Health Month, Dr. Walker will co-teach three more "Workout with Dr. Walker" classes at the Jefferson City West YMCA. Join her next week at noon for an introduction to Pilates, and tune in to KRCG 13 Live at Five next Friday, February 10, to learn more about the role smoking can play in heart disease.

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