Skip to main content

Military Health System

Training for a healthy heart can improve overall health

Image of Military personnel wearing a mask exercising in the gym. Navy Information Systems Technician 1st Class Caleb Womack performs a plank in preparation of the Physical Readiness Test at the Naval Recruiting Command in Millington, Tennessee, in February. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Tyler Priestley)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Physical Fitness | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Total Force Fitness | Heart Health

Having a medically ready force means ensuring each service member is in optimum physical, mental, and spiritual health to perform at their best throughout their high-stress careers. A healthy heart is essential to service members’ performance because it’s the pump that ensures their bodies get the right amount of nutrients and oxygen to work properly and sustain them.

To do that, the heart itself must work properly, and the lifestyle choices service members make contribute to their hearts’ health.

“A healthy heart not only is important for how your body performs in the present, but also contributes to your longevity,” said Tim Bockelman, supervisory physical fitness advisor and sports medicine and injury protection coordinator for the Recruit Training Regiment at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, South Carolina.

Exercise is one important aspect to achieving a healthy heart, but there are specific ways to exercise to ensure your heart is protected to allow for optimum performance. However, exercise is not the only way to achieve heart health.

“A good combination of healthy behaviors include exercise, recovery, nutrition, sleep, limiting alcohol use, smoking cessation, along with decreasing amount of inactivity, such as sitting at the game console or watching television, can positively impact heart health and performance,” said Bockelman.

And though all types of exercise contribute to good health, certain types of exercise contribute most to a healthy heart.

“For heart health, the recommendation is moderate intensity activities for 2.5 hours per week,” said Bockelman.

“Moderate exercise activities increase your heart rate and cause you to sweat, but you’re still able to talk,” he said. Hiking, brisk walking, biking on a level surface, water aerobics, etc. are some examples of moderate intensity activities.

And if you plan to engage in higher-intensity activities, the recommended time decreases because they engage your heart more.

“If you ramp up the intensity to something vigorous, such as running, circuit training, biking faster or with hills, or swimming laps, the recommended time decreases to 1.25 hours per week,” said the recruit trainer.

During vigorous activities, your heart rate increases and your ability to talk is limited to a few words between breaths. These higher-intensity activities are cardiovascular strategies that alternate between shorter bursts of intense anaerobic exercise with less intense recovery periods.

A large group of military personnel wearing face masks, listening to someone speak
Recruits with Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, participate in the Initial Strength Test at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, on Feb. 12. To officially begin training, each recruit must successfully pass the test, which is a combination of pull-ups, crunches, and a 1.5-mile run. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Zachary Beatty)

“Research using high-intensity interval training has moved past just providing performance benefits to where it is also providing heart health benefits,” said Bockelman.

Studies show the shorter duration, but more intense workouts result in an increased supply of oxygen to the muscles and improved lung, heart, and metabolic health. They also result in improved exercise tolerance, or how well the heart responds to exercise.

Marine Corps recruits, for example, must pass physical and combat fitness tests and be ready for the rigors of other training events and follow-on training, said Bockelman. “We’ve looked at those physical demands and developed a progressive regimen in balance with total body high-intensity interval training, strength conditioning, mobility, and flexibility.”

The conditioning program is designed to improve their physical performance, but it also provides general health improvement to include heart health. However, there are other aspects to heart health that contribute to overall health for optimum performance.

Proper sleep and a healthy diet, for example, allow the body to recover and withstand high-stress and high-performance careers such as those of service members.

“A diet with high levels of fat, especially saturated fats, cholesterol, sodium, and alcohol has been linked poor heart health,” said Bockelman. “High-performing service members need to look at foods to fuel their body for performance and health.”

A calorie intake over your daily needs will lead to obesity, which increases the risk for a cardiac episode, he said. And combining this with a high-stress lifestyle is not a good combination for optimum performance.

Likewise, “poor sleep patterns disrupt the resting heart rate and can increase blood pressure,” he said. “Restful sleep is vital to daily performance and health.”

Spiritual and mental health also contribute to a healthy heart. In turn, a healthy heart impacts mind and spirit for optimal performance.

“Sound spirituality can provide a sense of purpose,” said Bockelman. “This can lower stress levels and can help service members cope with stressful situations. In turn, cardiorespiratory stress and blood pressure can stay low.”

Service members can “work out” certain aspects of their life to contribute to keeping their heart healthy by making sound lifestyle choices to ensure they attain overall health. Today, technology provides tools to help individuals help themselves achieve and maintain optimum health.

“There are a multitude of smartphone apps to help lead you through brief mindfulness and relaxation techniques,” said Bockelman. “Even watches are now providing stress evaluation and recommendations. A couple minutes a few times a day with these techniques can bring a significant calm and stress reduction to your life.”

You also may be interested in...

PTSD Awareness Month - PTSD Awareness

Infographic
6/1/2022
PTSD Awareness Month - PTSD Awareness

Unfortunately, experiencing trauma is not uncommon. If you’ve experienced trauma and notice symptoms of #PTSD, don’t hesitate to ask your primary care provider about possible treatment. #TreatmentWorks #PTSDAwarenessMonth www.health.mil/ptsd

Recommended Content:

June | Total Force Fitness | Psychological Fitness | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD Awareness Month - Treatment Works

Infographic
6/1/2022
PTSD Awareness Month - Treatment Works

Experiencing #PTSD can make one feel hopeless. Fortunately, there are strategies and treatments that WORK to relieve PTSD symptoms. Don’t wait, seek help today. #PTSDAwarenessMonth www.health.mil/ptsd

Recommended Content:

June | Total Force Fitness | Psychological Fitness | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Men's Health Month - Taking Charge

Infographic
6/1/2022
Men's Health Month - Taking Charge

June is #MensHealthMonth. Your strength is rooted in your health and well-being, so #BeStrong and make sure you’re staying up to date on all health screenings and tests. www.health.mil/menshealth

Recommended Content:

June | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Men's Health

Men's Health Month - Screening

Infographic
6/1/2022
Men's Health Month - Screening

Not all illnesses and injuries demonstrate symptoms immediately. This #MensHealthMonth, be sure to ask your doctor which screenings might be right for you. #TakeChargeofYourHealth www.health.mil/menshealth

Recommended Content:

June | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Men's Health

Men's Health Month - Stigma

Infographic
6/1/2022
Men's Health Month - Stigma

#DYK? Men are 2x less likely than women to use preventive health care services. You can be the one to fight the stigma. Take action and schedule your recommended health screenings ASAP. #TakeChargeofYourHealth #MensHealthMonth www.health.mil/menshealth

Recommended Content:

June | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Men's Health

Holiday Food Safety Tip: Cook Food Thoroughly

Infographic
5/25/2022
Holiday Food Safety Tip: Cook Food Thoroughly

Use a thermometer to ensure your food is cooked to the right minimum internal temperature.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Nutritional Fitness

Holiday Food Safety Tip: Keep Cold Food Cold

Infographic
5/25/2022
Holiday Food Safety Tip: Keep Cold Food Cold

Don't let your cold dishes sit out on a counter for more than 2 hours. Keep it chilled at 40 degrees or less.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Nutritional Fitness

Holiday Food Safety Tip: Wash Your Hands

Infographic
5/25/2022
Holiday Food Safety Tip: Wash Your Hands

Washing your hands often is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of bacteria.

Recommended Content:

Nutritional Fitness | Total Force Fitness

Dental Awareness Deployment

Infographic
1/13/2022
Dental Awareness Deployment

A force that is not dentally prepared may see a fivefold increase in deployed dental emergencies. Regular dental care is needed to maintain readiness and deployability. #dentalhealth

Recommended Content:

Dental Health | TRICARE Dental Care | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Dental Health Main

Infographic
1/13/2022
Dental Health Main

Dental and oral health is critical to overall readiness, and poor dental hygiene and preventive practices can impact deployability. #dentalhealth

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Dental Care | Dental Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Teeth

Infographic
1/12/2022
Teeth

Your teeth are your tools for eating – not for opening bottles or packages. Stick to using your hands to open containers. #dentalhealth

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Dental Care | Dental Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Dental Health Reminder Avoid Tobacco

Infographic
1/12/2022
Dental Health Reminder Avoid Tobacco

Cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and other forms of tobacco cause oral cancer, gum disease, and other oral health problems. Avoid using tobacco to maintain your oral health. #dentalhealth

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Dental Care | Dental Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Dental Statistics

Infographic
1/12/2022
Dental Statistics

Dental Did You Know? Dental issues can negatively impact your deployability. Stay mission ready and keep on top of your dental care. #dentalhealth

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Dental Care | Dental Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Food and Beverage

Infographic
1/12/2022
Food and Beverage

#DYK: Drinks and foods high in sugar can lead to damage to your teeth. Skip the soda to protect your teeth. #dentalhealth

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Dental Care | Dental Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Dental Health Awareness. Things to do in your birthday month?

Infographic
1/12/2022
Dental Health Awareness. Things to do in your birthday month?

Is your birthday this month? Happy birthday! Now is the perfect time to schedule your annual dentist appointment. #dentalhealth

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Dental Care | Dental Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness
<< < 1 2 3 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 3
Refine your search
Last Updated: February 22, 2021
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery