Thump, thump, thump. The heart equals life for all: adult, child and animal. This main muscle, although understood and studied by doctors and scientists, is still a marvel when we stop and think about the sustaining power this one continually beating muscle has on our lives and how, if not treated with respect, it could stop beating.

The heart is roughly the size of your clenched fist and has a cone-like shape. This organ is divided into two halves, each with its own important function of pumping blood through arteries and veins.

Like any muscle in our body, the heart needs exercise, healthy eating and clean living to keep it strong. There are hundreds of exercise routines out there, from lifting weights to running, walking or doing yoga. Aerobic exercise like running, swimming or circuit training, however, is the best form of exercise you can participate in to strengthen your heart.

Running on a treadmill, for example, is an easy yet extremely effective way to get your heart pumping, and all from the comfort of your own home. The NordicTrack Commercial 1750 treadmill, ProForm Performance 1450 treadmill and Sole F80 treadmill are three of the best treadmills on the market today, as they provide you with a convenient, no-hassle way to fulfill your fitness goals, including helping you reach and measure your target heart rate.

The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests you exercise vigorously for 75 minutes per week or moderately for 150 minutes a week. The NordicTrack Commercial 1750 treadmill, ProForm Performance 1450 treadmill, Sole F80 treadmill or any other running machine within our treadmill review will help you easily reach the national exercise guidelines set by the American Heart Association.

The best thing about a treadmill is customization. Creating a treadmill exercise regime that fits your needs 100 percent will increase your level of success exponentially. On your treadmill, you choose how fast you run and how steep of an incline you use, and you can choose to manually change these options or use a pre-set treadmill program (designed for weight loss, target heart rate or speed) that will adjust both speed and incline for you automatically.

The best treadmills feature a pulse sensor on the center handrail and a wireless polar chest sensor, which give you accurate heart rate readings. To get an accurate reading, the American Heart Association recommends you take your heart rate when you are exercising at a vigorous pace and not a "conversational pace." According to the AHA, "If you can talk and walk at the same time, you aren't working too hard. If you can sing and maintain your level of effort, you're probably not working hard enough."

If you are just getting back into the exercise ring, however, the AHA also recommends not over-working yourself. If you have been inactive for quite a while, you should aim to achieve the lowest level in your target zone. After a few weeks, you can work to achieve 75 percent and then, after several months of consistent exercise, you should be able to reach 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. Target heart rate programs on your treadmill know exactly what level of intensity you need to be at in order to take an accurate measurement.

Your maximum heart rate depends on your age and fitness level and is about 220 minus your age. So, if you are a 50-year-old woman, your target heart rate zone is between 85-145 beats per minute and your maximum heart rate at 100 percent is 170 beats per minute. Again, if you are a 30-year-old man your target heart rate zone at 50-80 percent is 98-166 beats per minute and your maximum heart rate at 100 percent is 190 beats per minute. For the average target and maximum heart rate zones, visit the American Heart Association for more information.

Whatever your age or fitness level, the time to take charge of your life and get healthy is NOW. Whether you briskly walk around your neighborhood, go swimming or run on your treadmill, just do it consistently. Your heart will thank you.

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