As it turns out, you don’t need to be a professional athlete to keep your heart healthy. You can make plenty of small changes that have been proven effective at preventing heart disease, keeping your weight healthy, and even elevating your mood. Most of all, it doesn’t have to be boring; it can be fun!
How Much Exercise Do We Need?
The CDC says that only 150 minutes each week of moderate-intensity exercise is enough to get physical and mental health benefits. While this number can sound like a lot, remember that the exercise can be broken up into just 30 minutes per day. Moderate-intensity exercise is any sort of exercise that maintains your heart rate at 50-70% of your maximum heart rate. You can even calculate what this number is for you here. If you don’t care much for the technicalities, here are some ideas to get you started:
The great thing about jumping rope is that it can be done anywhere. Make it challenging by setting personal records, or take it at a slower pace- it’s all up to you. You may even want to jump rope to one of your playlists and keep up with the beat of the music.
Swimming is one of the easiest ways to get a full-body workout. Although you should try some beginner workouts, even moderate-intensity treading water can burn off calories quickly. Besides the cardio, burning calories like crazy can keep you at a healthier weight. This, in turn, lowers your risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
You may think you don’t have time to go cycling or walking, but this can be a great replacement for driving to your destination if it’s relatively close. If the weather is bad though, investing in one of these affordable exercise bikes can be a great alternative from the convenience of your home.
Simple jumping jacks work out your triceps, biceps, glutes, chest, core, and get your heart rate going. These tend to require patience; the longer you do them, the better your workout is. This easy exercise can be done pretty much anywhere.
Not only can dancing get your blood pumping, but it can be a great social activity for older adults who might not have as many options to meet people. If your range of motion is limited, you can always work around your challenges and find a dance move that works better.
What Makes Up a Heart-Healthy Diet?
While exercise is certainly an important part of heart health, it can’t make up for a poor diet. A healthy diet may reduce your chance of heart attack and stroke by up to 80%. So, what are the foods you should eat more or less of?
- “Healthy fats” are found in foods like raw nuts, olive oil, fish, and avocados. These foods are high in monosaturated and polysaturated fats which are crucial to heart health and reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes.
- A wide variety of fruits and vegetables. They are packed with vitamins, water and fiber that help promote a healthier weight.
- High-fiber foods and whole grains. Studies have shown that both insoluble and soluble fiber are great for keeping your digestive system in check, but soluble fiber in particular, helped lower bad cholesterol.
- Processed foods that are high in sugar and sodium. High levels of sodium in your diet make it more likely that you will develop high blood pressure.
- “Refined” carbs like grains, pasta, bread, or rice. These can cause you to pack on pounds more easily and leave you feeling hungrier.
- Processed and fatty meat like bacon, sausage, and fried chicken. Even though these provide a lot of much-needed protein, they are loaded with saturated fats that can raise your risk of heart disease.
- Anything with artificial trans fat/ partially hydrogenated oil. These fats not only raise your bad cholesterol, but they can work to bring down your good cholesterol. There’s a reason why many countries have banned these kinds of fats in their restaurants!
A little bit of education on heart health can go a long way. Keeping up with exercise and diet can pay off in the end: you get to have more active, happy days in your life!