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Regular exercise is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease

Move your body - protect your heart!

Regular exercise can reduce your risk of heart disease - not to mention the additional bonus of helping you look and feel better!

If you are active for 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week, you can lower your risk of heart disease and control risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity.

Even low-to-moderate intensity activities such as leisure walking, gardening, yard work, moderate-to-heavy housework, Tai Chi, anddancing, for as little as 30 minutes a day, can bring cardiac benefits. Here's a simple program oftai chi movements you can practice anywhere and the associated benefits of each of the exercises.

Adding more activity to your daily life can also reduce stress levels, increase your energy, and improve sleep and digestion.

Walking is great for your heart and it's something that you can do anywhere, anytime, at your own speed!

Here's a walking program you can follow. Cyclingis another ideal activity. You can enjoy being outside, or you can cycle in the comfort of your home on a stationary bike - or both!

A great resource for information about cycling isBicycle Riding for Boomers.

Many people with heart disease have discoveredyoga (including me!) - a stimulating and stress relieving form of exercise.

Weight training (in moderation) can be an excellent addition to your overall fitness program.

Swimming is another activity that can be part of your heart smart fitness program.

You may want to consider setting up a home gym for your fitness program.

A big challenge with any fitness program is getting started. An even bigger challenge is to keep it up! Use the Smart Heart Living fitness logto record your activity and keep motivated.

Don't let advancing age hold you back from starting an exercise program. Even if you're older, you're as likely to benefit from exercise as a younger person. Talk to your doctor and proceed at your own pace.

Another motivator... sign up for the free Smart Heart Living Bulletin.

This bulletin will contain new and motivating information to help keep you on track with your smart heart lifestyle.

In addition to starting - and maintaining - a fitness program, there are lots of things you can do to increase the activity level in your day-to-day life.

Check out these tips!

  • When shopping, deliberately park further from the entrance instead of trying to find the closest parking spot.
  • Whenever possible, use the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Walk to the corner store instead of driving.
  • If using public transit, get off one stop away from your destination and walk the rest of the way.
  • Start a lunchtime (or anytime!) walking group with your co-workers or friends.
  • Play with the kids or grandkids. Try softball, volleyball, badminton, basketball, toss a football, ride bikes, or play tag.
  • Walk the dog. If you don't have one, walk the neighbor's dog!
  • Exercise while watching TV.

How do I know that I'm not exercising too hard?

Borg Perceived Exertion Scale

You can monitor your progress a number of ways. First you can go by how you feel. Second, if you wear a heart rate monitor you can ensure that you are working out in the target heart rate zone set by your doctor or trainer. Third, a common measure is whether or not you can carry on a conversation while you are exercising. If you can't, you're probably exercising too strenuously and you need to cut back.

You will feel more confident as you get further along in your recovery and as you continue to exercise regularly.

If you attended cardiac rehab, or if you've had an exercise stress test, your health care team probably used the following scale (or some variation of it) to help you monitor how hard you were working. You can keep this scale in mind when you continue your exercise program on your own.

STOP exercising if you feel:

  • Pressure or pain in your chest, neck, arm, jaw, or shoulder.
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or nausea.
  • Unusual shortness of breath.
  • Unusual tiredness.
  • Heartbeat that feels unusual for you: too fast, too slow, or skipping a beat.
  • Any other symptoms that cause you concern.

Remember to check with your doctor before starting a new fitness program.

Count your steps

How active are you in a day? To get an idea, wear a pedometer all day to see how many steps you take from the time you get up until the time you go to bed. Keep track for a week. You may be surprised.

  • Fewer than 4,500 steps per day - you are very sedentary
  • 4,500 to 5,500 steps per day - you are sedentary
  • 5,500 to 7,500 steps per day - you're moving - but still not enough!
  • 8,500 steps per day - you're doing a great job. Keep it up.
  • 10,000 steps per day - the goal for long term health and fitness.
  • 12,000 steps per day - the goal for weight loss.

Climb the Stairs to Heart Health

According to a Swiss study, simply walking up and down stairs instead of using the elevator can increase fitness levels dramatically.

Subjects participating in the three month study experienced a reduction in waist size, body fat, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, all of which are risk factors for heart disease.

The study was conducted at the University hospital in Geneva, Switzerland.

Get Moving

When it really comes down to it, if you want to extend your lifespan, have better quality of life, and keep your heart as healthy as possible depending on your specific condition, you have to move your body!

If you're not used to it, it may be difficult at first, but if you persevere you'll grow to love it (and the results). It's important to find activities that you love. You may have heard the saying "the best exercise is the one you do." If you enjoy doing something it's recreation, not work!

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Stationary bikes

heart rate monitors


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