Giant leap towards a healthy heart

You don’t have to be an Olympian to take the simple steps needed to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, says Chris Tomlinson, London 2012 Team GB long jumper and British record holder

A year ago I qualified as a personal trainer so I know a bit about how to motivate people to exercise. People make the mistake of thinking they have to join a fancy gym, and buy lots of new and expensive kit, but when it comes down to it, none of that is necessary.

I train to a very high level, obviously, because I have to as that’s my job. But other people can gain benefits for their health by doing much less than I do.

As a personal trainer, I recommend people exercise enough to raise their heart rate, for 20 minutes, five times a week. What exercise you choose is up to you; it can be brisk walking to the shops, walking the dog or everyday things, like mowing the lawn, or getting out in the park or the garden with your kids.

If you take public transport to work, try walking to the station or back, or getting off the bus a stop or two early and walking the rest of the way.

If you’re not able to train to run a marathon that’s fine, the important thing is to exercise enough to raise your heart rate, do it often and make it a part of your everyday life. In time it might even become second nature.

If you want to take it further and improve your fitness, I would recommend 40 minutes of exercise twice a week, like cycling or jogging. This will have even more of a benefit on your general health and improve the strength of your heart, so you’re more resistant to heart disease.

Another thing I would say is, when it comes to exercising in order to improve your health and prevent heart disease, don’t underestimate the importance of goal-setting. It’s massively important. A lot of people take up exercise to lose weight or look a certain way, but health-related goals are excellent motivation and really work well.

In the UK, high blood pressure is such a big issue and exercise has a big effect. It’s so easy to take your blood pressure yourself. You can monitor it every week and have it as a goal to get your blood pressure down to below 140. If you are starting with a blood pressure above 160 or 170, set yourself a goal to get it down to 140 – a much healthier level. It’s good motivation if week after week you can see for yourself that it’s going down, as well as being good for your heart and your health.

Exercise is a massive contributor to good heart health. Professionals have to be aware of these things, but everyone can have a target and reducing blood pressure is a great goal.

London 2012 Olympian Chris Tomlinson is an ambassador for a charity fundraising and awareness campaign, run by the car manufacturer Alpha Romeo, and has designed a unique Italian-made silk pocket handkerchief in aid of Heart Research UK. www.alpharomeo.co.uk/pocketsquares