Healthy eating is a big part of maintaining heart health; however, it is not the only part. Engaging in regular physical activity is also important for improving heart health conditions. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week, or 75 minutes of strenuous exercise each week. Regular exercise improves cardiovascular health by strengthening the entire heart system, reducing feelings of stress, lowering blood pressure, increasing HDL or “good” cholesterol levels, and by improving the circulation and use of oxygen in the body.
Aerobic exercise is especially good for heart health because it helps improve the use of oxygen and over time, helps decrease your heart rate and blood pressure. Types of aerobic exercise include walking, jogging, swimming, bicycling, and jump-roping, among others. Walking is an aerobic exercise that has been studied and found to have great heart health benefits. According to the AHA, walking is the most effective form of exercise to promote heart health, and studies show that for every hour of walking, life expectancy may increase up to two hours. Use American Heart Month as the inspiration to integrate at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise into your daily schedule- the results could be life-changing! Here are a few suggestions:
- Park farther away from entrances so that you increase the distances that you walk throughout the day. Between work, school, shopping centers, etc. – the distances add up!
- Always take the stairs.
- When possible, avoid drive-thru service.
- Play with your kids. Encourage them to run and play outside by joining them! Ride bikes, skate, race, jump rope, and play games like soccer and basketball that call for a lot of moving. If you have to stay in, play the interactive video games that require standing and moving.
- When shopping, simply browse and take a couple of laps through the mall or grocery store before you go through and actually make purchases.
- If your job has a gym or workout facility, use 30 minutes of your lunch break to eat and the other 30 to take a run on the treadmill. If your job doesn’t have a facility, a few of laps around the parking lot is a great alternative.
- Get together with other parents at your kids’ schools and extracurricular activities. Form a workout group or take brisk walks while your kids are practicing.
- Take early morning jogs. A cool, brisk jog will wake you up and give you energy for the rest of your day.