I would be missing out if I went through this entire month without mentioning that it’s American Heart Month in February. Heart health is important, my friends. There are plenty of ways to put yourself in a position to have a healthy heart, and the one that rings the truest to me, of course, is doing regular cardiovascular or aerobic exercise.
Inactivity is a problem. Did you know that about 80 percent of adults in the United States are not getting the recommended amount of exercise, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention? The recommended amount of exercise is two-and-a-half hours of moderate-intensity cardiovascular or aerobic exercise, along with one-to-two strength-training sessions a week. That works out to five sessions of 30 minutes of cardio, with a little muscle work added on. (However, according to your individual health and fitness goals, strength training could take on a larger role of your weekly activity.)
And while it sounds like a lot, it’s doable. You can add activity to your day in so many ways. You don’t need to spend hours and hours at the gym each day to be active and fit, (although I’m certainly a proponent of taking regular group fitness classes). All you need to do is strive to incorporate more movements into your current lifestyle every single day. In fact, you can break up your spurts of activity throughout the day and still get the same benefits of one longer exercise session.
If you struggle to get the recommended activity, here are a few things you can consider …
How to start moving more every single day
- Park your car far from the entrance. If you’re always driving wherever you go, consider parking as far as you can from the store or office, so you can get in some extra steps. My Mom taught me this one years ago, and it’s something I try to do now that I’m back behind the wheel.
- Go on family walks after dinner. Family time and exercise? Seems like the perfect combination. Make it a routine and stick to it.
- Take the stairs. If you’re always waiting for the elevator, why don’t you use that time to get your heart-rate up with a few flights of stairs? Back when I used to work in an office, sometimes I would go for a quick jaunt up and down the stairs when the mid-afternoon slump would hit.
- Set fitness dates. Planning to meet up with a friend for coffee? How about you take that coffee in to-go cups and stroll around downtown or a nearby park. If it’s too cold outside, just loop the inside of a mall.
- Ride your bike. Grab a helmet, a backpack and try cycling to your next location rather than driving. Better yet, make bike dates with your friends that also have a set of wheels. Now that my husband, Dave, and I have moved into a bigger place with a garage, we’re definitely thinking of investing in some bikes.
- Get physical and take the hard route. When was the last time you used a push lawn-mower or carried two hand-baskets at the grocery store rather than put everything in a cart? All of this is exercise, and it’s good for you, even though it’s clearly not the easiest option. Extra credit: Do some bicep curls with your hand-baskets as you stare into the freezer section deciding what to pick up for dinner.
- Play games. I’m sure your friends, pets and children will love this one. Get outside and throw a ball around, play tag or get moving in a fun way. Too cold to get outside? How about some jump-rope in the basement?
- Make an appointment for it. Do you ever skip important appointments in your calendar? What if you scheduled in your 30 minutes of activity several times a week and stuck to it. If being active is important to you, you can find time for it. And letting others know that you’re committed by writing it in your calendar is a great way to be consistent.
- Find a workout buddy. If you’re new to exercising and want to create a routine, ask a friend to join you in your quest. You can meet for lunch-time walks during the day, or even get up 30 minutes earlier to go on a morning jog before you start your day. There’s strength in numbers.
- Set your alarm for mini bursts. What if you did five minutes of jumping jacks and mountain climbers before you took a shower, before you brushed your teeth and before you fixed dinner? Adding little spurts of activity will get your heart-rate up, blood flowing and give you a jolt of energy. And you can just as easily set an alarm on your cell phone to go off every couple of hours to remind you to get up and do these moves. (For more at-home workout ideas, head on over to my Fitness and Workouts page for a few short and effective routines.)
Pretty easy, right? I encourage you to take one step toward more activity today, and if you’re already there, how about motivating someone in your life who needs a little help?
And now, to give you another reason to move more, here’s a staggering fact for you.
The truth about heart health
True or false? Women don’t need to worry about heart disease as much as men do.
False. Women are at risk for heart disease, just like men. In fact, heart disease is the number-one killer of both men and women in the United States.
Scary stuff, folks. Scary stuff. If the fear alone cannot motivate, you, then maybe prizes and pre-paid gift cards will? Check this out …
Join the “We Dare You” campaign to win pre-paid gift cards
Changing your life can be as easy as taking a small step every single day in the right direction. When the folks at UnitedHealthcare reached out to me about sharing their campaign to help people lead healthier lives by documenting their baby steps to change, I knew I was interested. And they are sweetening the deal for you, because every time you do something active throughout the rest of February, you can visit the We Dare You website, log that activity and enter to win a pre-paid gift card. This contest is open to everyone in the U.S. (even if you don’t have UnitedHealthcare), and you can enter once a day, every day for extra chances to win.
To enter, all you have to do is go to the We Dare You website and do any of the following:
- Share a photo of yourself doing a heart-healthy exercise
- Test your smarts and answer a quiz question about heart health
- Get active and log your fitness activity for the day
There are weekly prizes of $25 pre-paid gift cards and monthly prizes of $400 pre-paid gift cards, so you have plenty of chances to win. And up next in March, the challenges focus on nutrition, another super important aspect of healthy living.
I’ve entered myself the past two days by answering quiz questions, both of which I’ve gotten right (and one is shown above, so that’s a freebie if you get it too). While I was on the site, I stayed to peruse around some beneficial heart-health articles as well, which is what inspired me to write this post. I usually write fitness-related posts from the stand-point of a very active person. However, because not everyone has the same routine as me, nor loves group fitness, I believe the baby steps I’ve addressed today can be key in heading toward a more active lifestyle no matter where you are today.
So there you have it. That’s all I’ve got for you today. After some work, I’m heading to a fun fitness event tonight, and I’ll see you back here tomorrow for my weekly “Friday Favorites.” Have a healthy and active Thursday. (And if you haven’t yet, be sure to check out the activewear giveaway I’m running until Saturday. It’s colorful and inspiring.) See ya!
**Disclosure: This post was sponsored by UnitedHealthcare, however all the views and opinions are completely my own.
Questions of the day
Is there someone in your life that you could help motivate to move more? What’s one thing active you’re planning to do today? What is one thing you’d like to dare yourself to accomplish?