Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Training for a healthy heart can improve overall health

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 | 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...

Religious support team deploys to help frontline healthcare workers

Article
1/28/2021
Two military personnel, wearing masks, standing against a wall

Military chaplains and religious affairs specialist deploy to support our military medical providers responding working on the frontlines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Recommended Content:

Spiritual Fitness | Total Force Fitness | Coronavirus

Social fitness can impact overall health and readiness

Article
1/28/2021
Five Cyclists riding on the road

Social fitness, one of the total Force Fitness framework’s eight domains, is an important element to holistic health.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Social Fitness

RHC-Europe Soldiers compete for Army Best Medic title

Article
1/21/2021
Soldiers in the snow, pulling a sled of materials

Army Sgt. Metcalf and Spc. Galdamez prepare to compete in the 2021 Command Sgt. Maj. Jack L. Clark Jr. U.S. Army Best Medic Competition later in the month at Fort Gordon, Georgia.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

NH Guantanamo Bay Lt. named as Subspecialty Officer of the Year

Article
1/14/2021
Navy Lt. Ara Gutierrez, Naval Readiness and Training Command Guantanamo Bay, was selected Navy Medicine’s Medical Technology Subspecialty Junior Officer of the Year for 2020.

Gutierrez said she was genuinely surprised and honored to represent medicine’s "hidden profession.”

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

MHS refractive surgery experts discuss warfighter readiness

Article
1/13/2021
Image of Mr. McCaffery looking at a monitor with an eye on it

Refractive surgery is any surgery that eliminates the need for glasses or contact lenses.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Vision Loss

DOD Launches “My MilLife Guide” Text Message Program to Boost Wellness

Article
1/11/2021
The new My MilLife Guide program supports the wellness of the military community.

DoD has launched My MilLife Guide, a new program that sends text messages designed to help the military community boost overall wellness while navigating stresses related to COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Public Health | Total Force Fitness | Health Readiness

Decreasing cervical cancer – one HPV vaccine at a time

Article
1/7/2021
Medical personnel showing report to soldier

Early detection and prevention methods are key to help women fight and prevent this form of cancer.

Recommended Content:

January Toolkit | Women's Health | Total Force Fitness | January Toolkit

8 Easy New Year’s Resolution Ideas for a Healthy Mind, Body, and Spirit

Article
1/4/2021
Colorful image with the number 8 and text saying "New Years Resolution: Ideas for a Healthy Mind, Body and Spirit."

Are you trying to get motivated to stick to a New Year’s Resolution? New Year’s is a perfect opportunity to catch up on things that you have been putting off. Set simple achievable goals for success.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness

MSMR Vol. 28 No. 01 - January 2021

Report
1/1/2021

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Attrition rates and incidence of mental health disorders in an attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) cohort, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2014–2018; The prevalence of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and ADHD medication treatment in active component service members, U.S. Armed Forces, 2014–2018; Exertional rhabdomyolysis and sickle cell trait status in the U.S. Air Force, January 2009–December 2018.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

Health literacy focuses on empowering patients to engage in their care

Article
12/30/2020
Medical personnel, wearing a mask, inserting an IV into a patient

How patient-doctor communication improves the health care experience.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Health Literacy Month 2020

AFHSD’s GEIS collect data worldwide to support force protection

Article
12/22/2020
Medical personnel scanning forehead of soldier with thermometer

AFHSD/GEIS continue work with partners across the globe in their efforts to combat COVID-19 and protect military readiness.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health | Coronavirus | Biological Surveillance Tools | Global Health Engagement | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

Deputy defense secretary stresses team approach in battling COVID

Article
12/10/2020
Soldier wearing mask, standing at computer monitors in an office building

The Military Health System has played an important role implementing the National Defense Strategy, Norquist said.

Recommended Content:

MHS Transformation | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Health Readiness | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

USAMRIID scientist recognized by French for distinguished service

Article
12/4/2020
Two military officers on stage; one handing the other a certificate

Kugelman...identified genetic markers of persistence of the Chikungunya virus.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Research and Innovation | Technology

Seven MTFs recognized by ACS for surgical care

Article
12/3/2020
Military surgeons in an operating room

The MHS hospitals were among 89 recognized facilities and 607 total military and civilian hospitals participating in the program.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Quality and Safety of Health Care (for Healthcare Professionals) | Clinical Quality Management

New report finds military hearing health is improving

Article
12/3/2020
Military doctor inspecting patient's ear

Noise-induced hearing loss is decreasing for active-duty service members.

Recommended Content:

Combat Support | Health Readiness | Hearing Loss | Hearing Center of Excellence Research Coordination Directorate | Hearing Center of Excellence
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 46 - 60 Page 4 of 44

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.