Red hearts, pink hearts, and purple hearts everywhere! You can’t go to a store this month without being reminded of your heart. Commercialism aside, this is a good time to put some attention to your amazing pumping heart machinery to keep it tuned-up. Here’s an assortment of things you can do for your heart as advised by the experts:
•Move your way to better heart health with regular activity. Something as simple as a brisk, 30-minute walk each day can help you lower your LDL or “bad” cholesterol and raise your HDL or “good” cholesterol—and reduce your risk of heart disease.
• Walking helps weight control. Turbo charge your workout to 60 to 90 minutes on most days of the week and you’ll also encourage weight loss, a bonus to your heart health. Talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program to learn what is safe and appropriate for you.
• Practice good posture. Keep your head lifted, your stomach pulled in and your shoulders relaxed. Place your heel down first, and then roll your foot forward. Swing your arms naturally; each arm should move with the opposite leg
•Warm up and cool down. Warming up increases blood flow to the heart and loosens up joints and muscles. To warm up, walk slowly or march in place for a few minutes. At the end of your walk, slow down gradually over a five-minute period to gently decrease your heart rate to resting level. Do a few simple stretching exercises after a walk to prevent muscle soreness or strain.
•Be aware of your breathing and heartbeat. To reap the most benefits, walk vigorously enough so that you’re breathing hard but you can still carry on a conversation. You should also attempt to reach your “target heart rate,” which is about 50 to 70% of your maximum heart rate. (To estimate your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220.) Build up to your target heart rate gradually.
•Burn calories at home. The easiest way to start walking is with a walk-in-place. Listen to upbeat, inspiring music, and walk in place to the beat for 10 minutes. Mix it up with side-steps, knee-raises and gentle kicks to raise your heart rate. Then pump your arms at waist height and touch your knees during knee-raises. Slow down for the last minute or two. Do the moves while watching TV.
•Grab a mile at the mall. This is a great walk for early morning, when the mall is still relatively empty. Instead of shopping or snacking, walk at a brisk pace for 15 minutes — that’s about one mile.
•Work off a meal. Whether you’re jump-starting your morning, grabbing some “me time” on your lunch hour or taking an after-dinner stroll with a loved one, walking off some of the calories in a meal is a great habit. Remember, this walk is a two-way street, with a well-balanced meal helping to fuel your workout and your workout ensuring healthy digestion.
•Push yourself with a partner. There’s no better motivation for exercise than finding a partner who shares your goals. Schedule a regular meeting time and place — at home, at the mall or a safe sidewalk or nature trail — and agree to walk for 30 minutes (about two miles) five times a week.
•Carry light weights. Gentle strength-training while you walk — with one-pound dumbbells or hand weights — gives your upper body a workout, too, and building muscle mass helps boost your metabolism so you burn more calories. Ask your doctor what kind of weights are right for you — and what your limitations are. Avoid overdoing strain to your joints.
•Wear moisture-wicking socks. Try a synthetic fabric that wicks away wetness, such as acrylic, nylon or Lycra. While new cotton socks provide nice cushioning and moisture absorption, they thin out with wear and can give you blisters.
•Buy somfy choes. To avoid foot and back pain, invest in a pair of walking shoes that cushion your heel and have an arch that matches your foot’s contours. And if you walk about two miles, five times a week, the experts’ advice is replacing your shoes every year.
•Strap on a pedometer, a Fitbit watch or your smart phone fitness app. Research suggests that wearing a pedometer and counting how many steps you take each day is an effective fitness tool. Structured walking — devoting a certain amount of time each day — is one of the best ways to get to the 10,000 daily steps recommended by health experts.
Keep your heart healthy and other parts of your body will also reap the benefits of better circulation and supply of oxygen and essential nutrients. Walk when you can. See you at the tracks!