Imagine that you’re a sailor on a sailboat. You and your four friends have been trained to sail, but you’re still new at it. The wind pushes you along peacefully for a while, but then a storm rises. It’s all hands on deck, working frantically against the wind and waves. You make it through that storm and a few more that follow and then one day you realize that you and your friends are stronger, faster, and better sailors than you were before that first storm. When the weather is good, it only takes three of you to man the boat where it once took all five.
Exercise is a storm for your heart. Exercise makes your heart work harder for a while which at first can feel like you’re being keelhauled*, but your heart is a fast learner. Before long it’s so used to the battening down the hatches that when your heart is at rest, it can take it easy. Studies show that the resting heart rate of people who exercise is lower than the resting heart rate of landlubbers*. A lubber’s heart (land or otherwise) is not being challenged, so it’s weaker and has to work harder to do less than an exercised heart. More storms makes for better sailors.
Storms have a way of cleaning the air because the extra wind and water (i.e. rain) remove the dust and particles. When you exercise, your blood moves faster which allows it to pulse into every tiny capillary at the tips of your fingers and toes. This allows the blood to bring more oxygen and nutrients to the cells and allows it to remove more junk from those cells. The strong blood flow also helps keep the arteries themselves clean, flexible, and inflammation free. It’s like a storm watering your garden and cleaning the air at the same time. Or sailors scrubbing the deck from jib to mizzenmast. Those are officially now my favorite sailing terms.
Inactivity (keeping your ship docked, so to speak) is one of the major risk factors for heart disease. Exercise lowers your risk for heart disease by 45%. And that’s exercise at the recommended 2.5 hours of exercise every week level. Even if you’re a landlubber who spends most of her time in the brig and only halfheartedly hoists the mainsail, you’re still reducing your risk of heart disease by a LOT. Anchors aweigh! By the way, those recommended 2.5 hours can be 30 minutes per day five days per week, or 2.5 hours on a weekend, or 25 ten minute bouts of movement sprinkled throughout the week. A bit of climbing the rigging here, a bit of casting off there, maybe a bit of barnacle removal just for fun. Your heart gets stronger with every minute of exercise you do.
We can’t talk about sailing without adding pirates to the mix. Arr, Matey, did you know that your muscles are pirates? Well, they are when you exercise! Our bodies have strict rules about how oxygen is transported, how glucose is absorbed, and so on. When an exercise storm hits, pirates can break those rules. Under the strain of exercise, your pirate muscles are able to steal oxygen and glucose (i.e. energy) straight from the blood instead of waiting for a delivery. This is a very good thing. The heart has to deliver oxygen and glucose to the muscles anyway, so pirate muscles save it some work. I never said they were smart pirates; just that they steal.
Here are some heart-pumping exercise ideas to get you started:
Walking (to the mailbox, across the parking lot, around the block, etc), biking, running (after toddlers, not your mouth), jogging, vacuuming (under the beds counts double in my book), gardening, roller skating, swimming, jumping (like on a trampoline, not when you see a spider), playing tag (as in chase, not on social media), taking the stairs, jumping jacks (or jills or up the hills).
*Keelhauled: a truly awful punishment from sailing days that usually ended in death. Exercise can feel uncomfortable, but if it feels like you’re tied to a rope and being passed under the keel of a ship, maybe pick a different exercise.
*Landlubber: a lubber is old slang for a person who is lazy. Sailors added the land part to make fun of non-sailors. In modern terms we say “couch potato”.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ Matthew 22:37
Sail back next time for Her Heart Sank onto the Bed: Sleep and Heart Health
Sailing terms – http://brethrencoast.com/Pirate_Glossary.html
Exercise and heart health – http://www.nytimes.com/health/guides/specialtopic/physical-activity/exercise’s-effects-on-the-heart.html?print=1&mcubz=3
Exercise and heart health – http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/heart_vascular_institute/clinical_services/centers_excellence/womens_cardiovascular_health_center/patient_information/health_topics/exercise_heart.html