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Heart Month Tip #21: No excuses!

February 22, 2015

From Pat Lara, Program Director, St. Luke’s Heart Health and Rehabilitation Center

“If the benefits of exercise were in a pill, it would be prescribed more than all other medicines combined,” says Pat Lara, director of St. Luke’s cardiac and pulmonary rehab programs. And today, that’s just what doctors are doing. They’re prescribing strength, cardiovascular, flexibility, and balance exercise designed for each individual.

“Exercise is a medical intervention,” Pat says. “We write an exercise prescription, taking into account the patient’s medical history, orthopedic complications, goals, and ability to perform exercise safely. And just like with medication, we look at the dose response and side effects.”

Patients enrolled in St. Luke’s cardiac rehab program, for example, are there because of heart problems. But they may have other issues, too, such as a bad knee or a weak back. Their rehab plan will include the cardio exercise that’s good for their heart, but will be designed to avoid aggravating their orthopedic issue. “You have to look at their whole medical history and condition,” Pat says, “not just their heart.”

Regular exercise, including cardio, strength/resistance training, stretching/flexibility, and balance, boosts your health in many ways:

  • Increases HDL (“good”) cholesterol
  • Decreases unhealthy triglycerides
  • Reduces your risk for heart disease and stroke
  • Helps you prevent or manage type 2 diabetes
  • Lowers your risk of falling
  • Helps prevent some types of cancer
  • Eases depression, stress, and anxiety
  • Lowers your blood sugar level
  • Controls your weight
  • Reduces back pain and arthritis pain
Exercise is the #1 way to keep your body going strong over the long haul, Pat says. “Take it as prescribed every day.”