With a new year comes a new opportunity to reevaluate our habits and incorporate new ones. Unfortunately, it’s easy to set the bar too high with our new year’s fitness goals. We choose activities we don’t enjoy because we think they’re the “right” ones, then burn out when they inevitably become something we dread. But the best heart-healthy exercise action plan is an achievable one.
So why not make it fun? After all, if you can have fun with it, you’re more likely to stick with it—and ward off serious problems like heart disease and high blood pressure. To find a realistic path to a more active lifestyle, here are a few fun and easy things to try.
1. Count Your Steps
Counting your steps with a fitness tracker or pedometer app is a proven way to improve your heart health. In fact, participants in a 2019 study who used pedometers to track their steps were 66% less likely to experience a serious cardiovascular event like a heart attack or stroke after four years.
Pedometers can help you set realistic goals for gradually increasing the number of steps you take. Don’t pressure yourself to start with 10,000 steps a day—simply find your baseline and make a plan to increase it over time with activities you find enjoyable.
2. Dance Whenever You Can!
Dance has amazing health benefits, and it’s one of the most fun ways to get your heart pumping. Dancing is a true full-body workout, improving flexibility, balance, mood, and of course, cardiovascular health. The best part is you don’t have to be a professional to get those boogie benefits.
Many women love the motivation and community that a dance fitness class can offer. Or, you can sneak dancing into your daily routine—while brushing your teeth, waiting for the microwave, even putting away the dishes. The world is your dancefloor!
3. Stretch & Destress
Revving up your heart rate is an excellent way to prevent and manage heart disease, but it isn’t the only way. Make some time for gentle stretches or yoga as you start or end your day. These calming mind and body exercises can help you destress, lower blood pressure, and manage blood glucose levels.
Stress affects women in unique ways, including increasing our risk for stroke and heart attacks. Yoga helps mitigate that stress while improving flexibility, muscle strength, and balance. As we learn more about the yoga-heart connection, we’re discovering that mindful motion is an important supplement to a heart-healthy exercise plan.
4. Daily Nature Walks
Making time for walks can be challenging on our own. However, if we incorporate walking into the family routine, it can become a bonding exercise as well as a physical one! When we move together, we’re much more likely to enjoy our time doing it—and keep it up in the long term.
Plus, there are a lot of benefits to spending time outdoors that don’t require you to be a top-tier athlete. Getting fresh air with a nature walk is great aerobic exercise, and it can boost your mental health, improve your short-term memory, and help you get the vitamin D you need to maintain strong and healthy bones!
5. Deskercise: Adding Movement to Your Work
The average American spends between 6.5 to 8 hours per day sitting—which neatly corresponds to the average workday. It also corresponds with an increased risk for obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Of course, when the workday is done, the last thing many of us want to do is spend another hour or more at the gym.
Thankfully, short bouts of “deskercise”—aerobics, strength exercises, and stretching you can do at your desk—can help mitigate these health risks. Try setting a reminder to step back from the screen and move for a few minutes every hour or so. It’ll not only help your heart—it can also give you a much-needed mood boost to tackle your day with confidence! Get started with this great guide from the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD).
New Year, Same Heart: Make Heart Healthy Exercise a Priority This Year
Getting more active is one of the best resolutions we can make for ourselves. But you don’t have to become a “new you” to make positive changes. Start with any kind of heart healthy exercise that brings you joy—when you find something fun, achieving your health goals becomes a labor of love.
If you’d like a helping hand in setting these goals and making a plan to live a longer, healthier life, NitzaMD is here for you. To find out more about our Live Long Stay Young programs for women, contact us online or call us at 352-707-0220 today!
NitzaMD: Add More Life to Your Life
NitzaMD offers comprehensive cardiac screening and heart-health programs to women in Central Florida and beyond. Dr. Alvarez is passionate about helping women add life to their lives through advocacy and preventative medicine. Learn more about Dr. Alvarez and her mission to educate and empower women about their cardiovascular health.