Listen to this scary fact: Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S and according to the American Heart Association, it is the No. 1 killer of women. In fact, more women die each year from cardiovascular disease than from all forms of cancer combined. But never fear! Your heart is a muscle, and giving it a good workout will help keep it in top shape for years to come.
Give your heart a workout. You should aim for at least 20 to 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise, at least three times a week, at a minimum, to keep your heart in good shape. Fitting in fitness doesn’t have to be hard – it can be fun! Try going for a walk after dinner, three nights a week, or go for a family bike ride. One great idea is to schedule workouts with a friend, so you can catch up while you exercise. Get creative! There are countless ways to make it easier to get more fitness into your life.
Pick an activity that gets your heart racing. And I’m not just talking about the cardio impact! You need to find something that you really love. So if walking and running aren’t your thing, maybe biking, swimming, jumping rope, or a fast-paced dance class could be just what your heart desires. Even playing a rousing game of tag with your kids can keep your heart racing!
Keep track of how your heart is doing. Pick an activity that gets your heart pumping and burns fat. You can figure out your target heart rate by subtracting your age from 220, then multiplying that number by 7. The final number tells you how many times your heart should beat per minute while you’re exercising. Or you can try the talking test: If you can’t complete a sentence while you’re working out, you’re going too hard—and if you can chat up a storm, you need to pick up the pace!
Vary your intensity. Interval training — where you go hard for a few minutes, then take a minute or two of slower recovery time — can really give your heart an excellent workout. Make sure you use a stop watch to help you track how long you’re doing each exercise, and pausing in between moves. If you’re taking too long of a break, you’re not keeping your heart rate up like you should! Try starting out with a few minutes of jogging or jumping rope, followed by one minute of weight training to combine your cardio work and strength training in one smart, effective workout.
Split it up, if you must. Can’t set aside 20 minutes in a row for exercise? You can still get some heart-healthy benefits, even if you have to do it in intervals. So start your day with 10 minutes of jumping rope or jumping jacks, then go for a brisk 10-minute walk on your lunch break—and end your day with a nice bike ride through your neighborhood. You can fit in strength training on the go, too! When walking up stairs, skip a step and squeeze your bottom. In your car, pull in your stomach muscles and tighten for five seconds on and off – five seconds is equivalent to one sit up!
Make it fun. Working out shouldn’t be a chore! Figure out what’ll make it more enjoyable for you. Add in your favorite high-energy music, go outside, do crunches on a balance ball, lift dumbbells while you watch your must-see TV show, or enlist a buddy for your power walk.
Mix it up. You and your muscles will both get bored if you stick with the same old cardio routine every week. And as your heart gets more efficient at working through your workout, it won’t be challenged by that same old stroll through the neighborhood. So make sure you keep it interesting! Try a new class at your gym, switch to a harder gear on your bike, or trade in your current walking route for a more hilly one. You’ll keep your mind, body—and your heart—challenged.
Most importantly, be sure to talk to your doctor about your personal heart-health history and genetic risks. Do everything you can to prevent heart disease and share this lifesaving advice with everyone – your friends, sisters, daughters, and the other women in your life. You’ll be glad you did!
Written for Rite Aid by DeniseAustin.com