February was American Heart Month and as a leading nonprofit dedicated to strengthening community through healthy living, the Marietta Family YMCA urges everyone in the Mid-Ohio Valley to take steps to prevent chronic diseases, such as heart disease, so they can lead longer, healthier lives year round.
To address the prevalence of heart disease in the United States, the National Y made a commitment to the Million Hearts campaign, an initiative spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that aims to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes over the next five years.
The root causes of many chronic diseases, including heart disease, are unhealthy behaviors such as physical inactivity, unhealthy eating and tobacco use. With a presence into more than 10,000 communities across the nation, the Y has the ability to address the root causes of chronic disease at both the individual and community level and improve health and well-being.
The Y offers community-based healthy living and chronic disease prevention initiatives that support people in changing their lifestyles, encourage organizations and communities to adopt behaviors that promote healthy living and promote the public's health through advocacy.
Here in Washington County, the Marietta Family YMCA encourages heart health through programs and classes encouraging community members of all ages and fitness levels to be active and healthy.
People who exercise are happier, suffer less stress and are more productive. A combination of strength training and aerobic exercise is ideal for heart health. While strength training reduces LDL cholesterol levels (artery-clogging cholesterol), aerobic exercise improves HDL levels (also known as "good cholesterol"). Strength training may even help reduce blood pressure (if you have hypertension however, check with your doctor before beginning a strength training program). Strength training helps to change body composition by reducing body fat and increasing lean mass.
If you are new to exercise, or have been "missing in action," then FitStart is designed specifically for you. FitStart is an eight week structured program that includes your personal FitStart Counselor to get and keep you motivated. You will have four individual appointments with your FitStart Counselor and will be asked to make a commitment to exercise three times a week during your program. Exercise, both cardiovascular and strength training, will be added in small increments to enhance your success. You will receive two body composition measurements with your package, one at the beginning of your program and one at the end.
The Marietta Y also offers an excellent Aquatics program with a variety of heart healthy opportunities for people of all ages. People can swim throughout their entire life pursuing a healthy activity that works practically all the muscles in the body. Swimming builds strength and provides overall cardiovascular fitness. From the Marietta Marlins swim team to swim lessons and classes and open swim there are multiple opportunities to strengthen the heart and have fun at the Marietta Y.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, swimming is the second most popular sports activity in the United States and a good way to get regular aerobic physical activity. Just two and a half hours per week of aerobic physical activity, such as swimming, bicycling, or running can decrease the risk of chronic illnesses. This can also lead to improved health for people with diabetes and heart disease. Swimmers have about half the risk of death compared with inactive people. They can also exercise longer in water than on land without increased effort or joint or muscle pain.
In short, the Marietta Family Y offers health to people of all ages. Parents are encouraged to set a good example and bring their children along. Grandparents, too, can pave the way for future generations to be healthy and happy.
To date, the Y's Healthier Communities Initiatives has engaged leaders in more than 200 communities to assess and improve community environments to promote healthy living through strategies that increase opportunities for healthy eating, help people get more physically active and breathe air free of smoke.
The Marietta Family YMCA offers a community of diverse individuals who can support all members of our community in meeting their health and well-being goals. Learn more by visiting mariettaymca.org or stopping into your Marietta Y to learn more.
Suzy Zumwalde is director of the Marietta Family YMCA.