Marco Y launches 'Heart Fit' program

Health series set for November and December

Marco Eagle

Following success with programs that reflect its healthy living doctrine, the Greater Marco Family YMCA has launched "Heart Fit" for members as well as non-members.

It runs 1 to 2 p.m. the first three Thursdays in November and again in December, with some sessions followed by healthy cooking demonstrations, as well as a talk by a cardiologist and a wellness coach to wrap everything up.

The Y's Healthy Living and Wellness Director Deborah Passero, who cited a family history of heart problems as a big motivating factor, devised the program.

Heart Fit program presenters Hannah Heidenreich.

"My grand mom was young when she had a heart attack. My dad was 36 and my mom was in her 40s," Passero said, "so I knew it (heart health) was important for me and my kids.

"And," she added, "the general public. We know, of course, that there are things we can do to prevent some of our chronic diseases."

Consequently, the first part of the program will focus on interval and target heart rate training (common with athletes of all levels) that involves timed higher and lower energy segments on fitness machines.

Weeks 2 focus on circuit training and flexibility, which Passero says are aimed at increasing sustainability and preventing injury.

Weeks 3 bring in the "FITT" principle, encompassing Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type (of exercise or machine), which are meant to be applied in weekly routines by participants.

The Y's Chronic Disease Specialist Hannah Heidenreich, will co-present the sessions.

"Both of us have experience in cardio rehab," Passero said.

Heart Fit, she said, is a new Y program, following successful programs embracing Parkinson's disease, diabetes, cancer and arthritis.

Participation can be for individual sessions or the entire six-week package, while healthy cooking and the wellness coach and cardiologist's talk are free to anybody.

"Basically, people will be learning their own programming, so they'll have a lot in their tool belt - healthy eating, coaches and the cardiologist," Passero said.

For more on the Heart Fit program, as well as the Y's wide variety of programs and activities for adults and children, visit or call 394-YMCA (9622). Follow on Twitter at greatermarcoymca, or on Facebook at marcoymca.

If you go

Heart Fit series

  • When: Nov 1, 8, 15 and Dec. 6, 13 and 20
  • Time: 1-2 p.m.
  • Cost: $10 per class or $60 for six-week program. (Non-members $15 and $90)
  • Extras: Nov. 8 and Dec. 6, healthy cooking demos, 2 p.m.
  • Guest speakers: Dec. 13, Mayo Clinic certified wellness coach Martin Becker, and Dec. 20 cardiologist Dr. Roland Werres, 2 p.m.

The many ways cardiovascular exercise benefits your body

Cardiovascular exercise has long been noted as an important component of a well-rounded fitness regimen. But even the most ardent exercise enthusiast may not know just how profound an impact cardiovascular exercise, often referred to as "cardio," can have on various parts of the body. According to the Cleveland Clinic, cardio affects the body from head to toe, providing some surprising benefits.


The brain benefits from cardiovascular exercise in myriad ways. Cardio increases blood flow and decreases a person's risk of stroke, a potentially debilitating and even deadly interruption in the flow of blood to the brain. Cardio also has been shown to improve memory and cognitive ability, while helping men and women combat age-related decline in brain function.


Even skin, the largest organ in the human body, can benefit from cardio. Routine cardiovascular exercise can increase circulation, contributing to clearer, healthier skin.


The blood that flows throughout the human body is no exception when it comes to benefitting from cardiovascular exercise. Cardio helps control blood sugar and improves levels of high-density lipoprotein, also known as "good" cholesterol.


Exercise enthusiasts who love to strength train should not discount the benefits of including cardio in their workout regimens, which can increase oxygen supply to muscles, allowing them to work harder. Cardio also helps muscles adapt to an increased workload that can make routine activities seem easier.


Cardio improves the ability of the pancreas to control the body's blood sugar levels, thereby decreasing stress on this vital gland and reducing a person's risk of developing type 2 diabetes.


The lungs benefit from cardiovascular exercise because cardio improves exercise ability, decreasing the demand on the lungs the more people exercise. That also helps reduce fatigue and shortness of breath in people with chronic lung problems.

Bones and joints

Cardio has a profound impact on bones and joints, helping even those with arthritis more capably manage their discomfort and maintain their range of motion. Aging men and women can employ cardiovascular exercise to combat osteoporosis, a condition linked to aging in which bones become fragile and brittle from loss of tissue.


Cardiovascular exercise has even been shown to improve mood, especially when cardio is performed at the end of stressful days. Cardio also can help combat depression and improve self-esteem.