muscle heartHuman beings walk to get around, not to lose weight. Up until the last 30 or 40 years, most people in this country, and around the world, were relatively thin and fit. Most of us didn’t eat processed foods loaded with fat, sugar, and salt, nor did we sit in front of screens all day and night. We walked and played and ate real food. But our lives have changed dramatically over the last 25 years. And in the process, the obesity rate has skyrocketed. A lot of people say that they walk as a form of exercise, and while any activity is good activity, obesity is not a problem that is going to be solved by walking alone. The issue is and always has been “calories in vs calories out.” Walking is certainly better than doing nothing, but it’s not enough if you’re looking for dramatic metabolic and physical changes. If you want head-over-heels dramatic change in your health and well-being, you have to do a variety of resistance and cardiovascular exercises, at an intensity that challenges your heart, while also eating nutritious foods.

A sedentary lifestyle is one of the five major risk factors (along with high blood pressure, abnormal values for blood lipids, smoking, and obesity) for cardiovascular disease, as outlined by the American Heart Association. Evidence from many scientific studies shows that reducing these risk factors decreases the chance of having a heart attack or experiencing another cardiac event, such as a stroke, and reduces the possibility of needing a coronary revascularization procedure (bypass surgery or coronary angioplasty). Regular exercise has a favorable effect on many of the established risk factors for cardiovascular disease. For example, exercise promotes weight reduction and can help reduce blood pressure. Exercise can reduce “bad” cholesterol levels in the blood as well as total cholesterol, and can raise the “good” cholesterol. In diabetic patients, regular activity favorably affects the body’s ability to use insulin to control glucose levels in the blood. Although the effect of an exercise program on any single risk factor may generally be small, the effect of continued, moderate exercise on overall cardiovascular risk, when combined with other lifestyle modifications (such as proper nutrition, smoking cessation, etc.), can be dramatic.

Are you at risk of heart disease? The ratio of your waist-to-hip measurement is a good predictor of heart disease risk. One of the largest and most important cardiology studies ever conducted – the Interheart Study – offers proof of this. From information on more than 27,000 people from 52 countries, researchers found that the higher a person’s waist measurement relative to his/her hip measurement, the greater the risk of heart disease. Abdominal fat, says researchers, produces hormones and inflammatory substances that can be harmful to your heart and overall health. They published their results in the medical journal The Lancet.

Here’s how to measure your waist-to-hip ratio: With a tape measure, stand in front of a mirror and measure your waist, which for the purposes of this test is the narrowest part of your midsection (this will usually be 2 to 3 inches above your naval). Divide that number by the circumference at your hipbones or at that point where your glutes protrude the most, whichever measurement is greater. The table below gives general guidelines for excellent to extreme levels for waist-to-hip ratio:


















So, how intense should you be working out to achieve the positive changes you desire and prevent the risk of heart disease? Generally speaking, to ensure that you are working at an aerobic pace, you want to work at a rate that is 75 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate in beats per minute. Maximum heart rate per minute is found by subtracting your age from 220. For example: I’m 35, so my maximum heart rate would be 185. To get your desired “working” heart rate, multiple your maximum heart rate by .75 and .80. Using myself as the example again, my desired exercise heart rate range would be 139 to 148. I believe that when you work out, you should try to keep your heart rate within your “working” zone throughout most, if not the entire workout. It doesn’t make sense to me to do one exercise, sit around for ten minutes, and then do another. You are missing out on many benefits by following a fitness routine of that nature. In whatever you do, avoid undertraining/overtraining, and optimize heart health by making sure that you exercise in your optimal heart rate range.

About the Author

Christopher Kazda is a Certified Personal Trainer and a Chiropractic Technician at New Beginnings Chiropractic, 1861 Business Hwy 18/151, Mount Horeb, WI 53572. He is available Monday through Saturday to help you reach your fitness goals.

Please call 715-302-2153 or 608-437-9990, email at, or visit, for more information or to schedule an appointment.