I’ve told you about lots of ways you can help your heart by preparing healthy food, like in my post, 14 Ways to Make Your Summer BBQ Heart Healthy. Now, I want to share with you how physical exercise for just 30 minutes a day can help your heart. That’s not a lot of time out of your day and since it’s so important for your heart health, it’s definitely worth it; especially since heart disease is the nation’s #1 killer.
Overall Cardiovascular Health to Help Your Heart
The American Heart Association is one of my favorite sources of information about heart health. They recommend that adults who want to have overall cardiovascular health, get “150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity).” That ends up being “at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week.” The nice thing is, you even get 2 days off! If you don’t have 30 minutes all at one time in the day, you can split it up into two 15 minute sessions or three 10 minute sessions.
If you prefer to exercise less than 5 days a week, you can do “at least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least 3 days per week for a total of 75 minutes; or a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.”
No matter which amount of exercising you choose: 30 minutes or 25 minutes, you need to also do “moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days per week for additional health benefits.”
Lowering Blood Pressure and Cholesterol to Help Your Heart
If you’re like my husband and already know you need to lower your blood pressure and/or cholesterol, the AHA recommends “40 minutes of aerobic exercise of moderate to vigorous intensity three to four times a week to lower the risk for heart attack and stroke.” That’s still not bad because you’d be surprised at how fast 40 minutes goes by, especially once you get used to exercising, and you only have to do it 3 or 4 times a week.
Examples of Physical Activity That Will Help Your Heart
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Anything where you’re moving your body and burning calories counts as physical activity. This is good news because so many of us like doing a different variety of activities, and this means there’s isn’t just one way to get our exercise! Some examples of physical activity are climbing stairs or playing sports. There are 2 different types of physical activity: aerobic exercises, which help your heart, and strength and stretching exercises which help with overall stamina and flexibility.
Some examples of aerobic activities are walking, jogging, swimming, and biking. According to the American Heart Association, “The simplest, positive change you can make to effectively improve your heart health is to start walking. It’s enjoyable, free, easy, social and great exercise. A walking program is flexible and boasts high success rates because people can stick with it. It’s easy for walking to become a regular and satisfying part of life.” I totally agree with their statement! Walking is easy to do and you can enjoy it with friends and family. Several teachers at my son’s school like to go walking together on their lunch, or especially after school. Some of the moms go walking together after they drop their kids off school, before beginning their tasks for the day.
My son and I walk to and from school together, and then I go for a longer walk after I drop him off. If I have a sub job for the day, I walk after I pick him up from school. During vacations and summer, my 10 year old son and I go for walks together in the morning. It’s also nice because you don’t have to join a gym, and there’s plenty of places to walk outside. Each day of the week, we have a certain path we walk, that way we don’t get bored and instead, get to see 5 different areas around our neighborhood. All I need for walking is a good pair of shoes. My favorite ones are Asics Gels. They’re running shoes, but when I was younger, I tore my achilles tendon 3 times, so I need a really sturdy shoe. Other than that, I don’t wear any special clothes or anything, so walking is really affordable.
My husband really enjoys jogging. Well, actually, he started off jogging and then liked it so much that he’s turned into a runner. In fact, he just completed his first marathon last month! He likes to wear running shorts and running shirts because they wick away the moisture, which is really helpful, especially on his long runs. His new favorite thing to wear on his long runs is a hydration vest because it carries his Gatorade, water, and snacks.
My dad enjoys biking. He even has a map of the world on his living room wall with pushpins in it that shows how far he’s been. When he gets home, he measures how many miles he went from the last pushpin and puts in a new one. His goal is to “ride around the world.” This has made some interesting conversations when he stops to take a break during his bike rides because some people don’t get how he can ride around the world, even though he’s just riding around the city. People always stop and talk to him because they’re fascinated with his electric bike. Most people have never seen one before, so they’re curious. He pedals most of the time himself, and only uses the electric part if he needs it to get up some of the steep hills.
Strength and Stretching Exercises
Since I like to save money, I do all my strength and stretching exercises at home. I also have back trouble, so my doctor and previous physical therapist gave me lots of exercises I can do at home.
You can find lots of YouTube videos for strength exercises for women or men. They have them for different levels, abilities and age. I used to work out with weights at home, but haven’t been able to use them in awhile. My daughter and son used to like using them too. Now, I have an exercise band that I just stick in the front door and close the door on it, for some of my back exercises. My doctor also told me last week to use the band to do some hip exercises.
You can also find lots of YouTube videos for stretching at home for various amounts of time and abilities. I just do my back exercises on the carpet at home, but my daughter likes to use an exercise mat. Sometimes my youngest son will come next to me on the carpet and do some of my back exercises with me, and he also likes to do the exercises with my daughter.
So, even if you haven’t exercised in a really long time, it’s okay. You can start today! (of course check with your doctor first to make sure it’s okay) Don’t expect yourself to make it to the recommended exercise time goals at first, but you can work your way up to it. Any physical activity is better than none, and it will still help your heart. Who knows, you might surprise yourself and surpass those time goals like my husband and I have!
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