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Beyond Injury Recovery or Post-Operative Rehabilitation – A Physical Therapist Can Help Keep Your Heart Healthy

Beyond Injury Recovery or Post-Operative Rehabilitation –

A Physical Therapist Can Help Keep Your Heart Healthy

February is American Heart Month!

Jessica Hutchinson, PT, DPT



Did you know:

  • Heart disease is the #1 killer of women in the US. 1
  • 1 in 3 deaths in the US are due to heart disease. 1
  • Heart disease kills roughly the same number of people in the US as all cancers and accidents combined. 1
  • Heart disease is considered a lifestyle disease and is largely preventable through lifestyle changes, such as increased physical activity. 2
  • Walking just 30 minutes/day, 5 days/week can reduce the risk of heart disease by 50% and reduce stress, cholesterol, and blood pressure. 3
  • About 3 out of every 10 U.S. adults report being inactive during their leisure time, and only half of U.S. adults report levels of aerobic physical activity consistent with national guidelines. 4

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination each week. 5


Add moderate to high intensity muscle strengthening at least two times per week in addition to above.

  • Moderate intensity: 50-70% of maximum heart rate. You’ll be able to talk, but not sing the words to your favorite song.6
    • Examples: Walking fast, water aerobics, yardwork, riding a bike on level surfaces, doubles tennis.
  • Vigorous intensity: 70-85% of maximum heart rate. You won’t be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath.6
    • Examples: Jogging and running, swimming, basketball, singles tennis, riding a bike fast or uphill.

3 Ways a Physical Therapist can help:

  1. Address mobility issues
    Physical Therapists (PTs) are experts in movement science! A PT can help get you moving and keep you moving. Your PT will evaluate and diagnose impairments in range of motion, muscle flexibility, muscle strength, speed of movement, muscle and aerobic endurance, accuracy of movement, and coordination that may impact your ability to participate in physical activity.  Additionally, your PT will assess your baseline vitals such as heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure and identify any possible risk factors or barriers to increasing physical activity.
  2. Promote independence with managing healthy lifestyle habits
    Most importantly, a PT will help you maximize your ability to move and provide you with the tools for long term success. A PT will educate you on current, best-practice guidelines, moving with correct form, preventing injury, and provide you with the resources to stay active to prevent heart disease. We will also educate and provide resources to address stress, sleep, nutrition, and smoking cessation to keep your heart healthy for years to come.
  3. Prescribe an individualized exercise program
    Based on their evaluation and diagnoses, a PT will design a tailored program that is structured, safe, and effective and help you set realistic goals while addressing any perceivable barriers for long term success. This program will include aerobic activities such as walking, jogging and swimming.  Your physical therapist will also include strength training, which further decreases the risk of heart disease and improves your overall health – here’s how:
  • Strength training can speed up the body’s metabolic rate, which can decrease fatty tissue in the body.
  • It can also decrease the amount of visceral fat, or belly fat that sits around vital organs, including the heart. Excess visceral fat can contribute to health problems including heart disease.
  • Studies have shown that strength training twice a week, especially combined with regular cardiovascular activity, can have profound positive effects on heart health and overall health.

Movement is Medicine!
Call your local Movement Systems Physical Therapist today to help you get moving!
Now serving South Lake Union, Mercer Island, and Gig Harbor



Jessica Hutchinson is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and Board-Certified Clinical Specialist in Orthopedic Physical Therapy who strongly believes in a ‘patient first’ mentality for long term success. In an alternate universe, she would be a wine sommelier. She practices at the South Lake Union clinic.

Benefits of Aerobic Exercise

 Aerobic Exercise and Benefits of Walking

By Kendall Wisehart DPT, ATC

What is aerobic exercise?

  • Simply put aerobic exercise or “cardio” is activity that requires increased activity of the heart to pump oxygen rich blood the muscles.
  • Examples include walking, running, hiking, and swimming
  • Aerobic refers to “with oxygen” whereas anaerobic refers to “without oxygen”


  • Mental benefits include increased confidence, emotional stability, memory and brain function
  • Physical benefits include strengthened heart and lungs, lower cholesterol, improved immune function, and lower blood pressure – among many others!
  • Fitness benefits include improved muscle tone, stamina, and energy levels for both work and play

Disease Prevention (via ACSM)

  • Seniors who walk 6-9 miles/week are less likely to suffer from mental decline as they age, including dementia
  • Walking 30 minutes/day, 5 days/week, along with diet changes, can halve the risk of Type II Diabetes
  • Walking 30 minutes/day, 5 days/week can halve the risk of heart disease and reduce stress, cholesterol, and blood pressure
  • Walking can reduce pain and improve function, mobility, mood, and quality of life without worsening symptoms for those with arthritis
  • Walking triggers endorphins, promotes relaxation, and can help prevent anxiety and depression

Walking 30 minutes/day, 5 days/week can halve the risk of heart disease and reduce stress, cholesterol, and blood pressure

Other benefits of walking (via ACSM)

  • Walking 45 minutes/day halves your odds of catching a cold
  • Walking 1 minute can extend life by 1.5 to 2 minutes
  • Walking 20-25 minutes/week can extend life by several years!

How do I get started?

  • If you have health issues – talk to your doctor and ask to see a physical therapist
  • Choose an activity that you enjoy. It can be as easy as walking or gardening or as intense as hiking or running
  • Find a friend! Having the support of a friend of family member will help keep you going

How much should I do?

  • For most healthy individuals: 30 minutes, 5 days a week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise OR 20 minutes of high intensity aerobic exercise
  • A quick way to gauge intensity is Target Heart Rate. To calculate: 220 – (your age) x 70%. Example: 220 – 45 years old x .70 = 122.5 beats per minute (bpm)
  • You should be able to carry on a conversation with your walking partner without shortness of breath

Can I over-do it?

  • Absolutely! Just like a sedentary lifestyle, overactivity can have its own negative consequences like injury and reduced immune function
  • Developing a consistent exercise routine is key in preventing over-training, this includes rest days
  • A workout or training session is only as effective as how much you can recover from it

What’s considered “in-shape”?

  • Everyone will have their own unique definition of fitness, related to their fitness goal
  • A lower resting heart rate is just one indicator of fitness, normal RHR is 60-100 bpm

Other biomarkers like blood pressure and cholesterol may be used to determine fitness


Kendall Wisehart DPT, ATC Bio