When it comes to matters of the heart, there’s nothing more important than keeping it healthy. The American Heart Association tells us “ninety percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.” Let’s keep those risk factors at bay by incorporating movement into your routine. Exercising doesn’t need to be anything crazy or intense, in fact, something as simple as a walk will do. By the end of the day, your heart will have pumped out an estimated 100,000 beats. So, let’s go over some easy options for keeping your heart’s performance top-notch.
First, let’s break down the timing: 30 minutes per day of exercise is ideal to maintain a healthy heart. Break up the time into two 15-minute segments, or three 10-minute bursts.
Walking: Hitting the pavement or a hiking trail is a great way to get some cardio done. Add pushing a stroller or babywearing (resistance training, anyone?) and your heart will be pushed even harder. Walking solo or with a friend can relieve stress, which no heart needs anyway.
Cycling: Hop on a bike and get moving. If your joints give you trouble, this would be a safe option since it’s low-impact. The biggest muscles in your body are in your legs and they require a lot of blood flow to perform, and therefore, a lot of heart power. What’s more, cycling can burn about 300 calories an hour! Try a spinning class or a bike rental if you don’t have one of your own.
Yoga: You might not think of yoga as a cardio workout, but it can be. Even if you stick to a flowing series, the movements require breath awareness. Lung and heart health go hand in hand. Controlling your breath at a slower rate decreases blood pressure and calms the nervous system. If you can’t make it to a class, try some stretches at home, breathing out as you go further into the stretch. Read more on the benefits of yoga and heart health here.
Swimming: Summer is just around the corner, so when you plan to take the kids to the pool, dip into the lap lane for a few minutes. If swimming isn’t your forte, give it a shot anyway. Try the breaststroke or the side stroke; neither require your face to fully submerge. This is another low-impact exercise, ideal for joint recovery and full body movement. Click here to discover more exercises you can do in the water.
Weight training: Picking up the pumpkin seat and walking into the grocery store definitely counts as weight training. Any type of resistance or weight added to your body tells the muscle fibers to react, and that reaction requires immediate blood flow. Low weights and high reps is a popular training trend to build leaner muscles and push your pulse. If you don’t have hand weights, try a couple of water bottles or soup cans. Click here for dozens of movements you can do with dumbbells. Or, if you’re going for gold, pick up the barbell at the gym for some slow back squats and push presses, which can also be done with hand weights.
Stretching: Oh yes. Stretching is most beneficial if your muscles are already warm. Stretching should never be uncomfortable, so only go as far as your body allows you. Try holding each stretch for 15-30 seconds at least. Doing this daily will increase your flexibility after just a few weeks. The more flexible you are, the more you can move. Click here for more benefits of stretching.
Exercise is movement, so as long as you’re moving as much as you can throughout the day, you’re helping your heart. Like any other muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets. To learn more about heart disease in women, visit the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women organization here.