You might think that getting fit and boosting your heart health means spending hours upon hours at the gym, sweating and getting on machines that look more like torture devices than anything that’s going to help you. Well, I’m here to tell you that’s not true. In fact, reaping the heart-healthy benefits of exercise doesn’t have to take a huge time commitment – nor does it have to be torturous. It can actually be quite fun!
Here are five fitness tips to get your ticker healthy and happy:
1. Start with activities you love
If you’ve had problems making exercise a regular part of your life, then I imagine you only think of exercise as something you have to do in the gym. But that’s just not true! Things like walking, dancing in your living room, bowling and even cleaning the house can count as exercise as long as you’re getting a little out of breath when you’re doing them.
So sit down and make a list of all of the active things you do and find a way to make at least one of them a part of your day, every day. Then, after a few months of making those activities habits, try new ones or more traditional workouts like a group exercise class. As you get in the habit of being active and start to get more fit, you might just be amazed and what activities you like.
2. Embrace the power of 10
Think you can’t get heart-health benefits from just 10-minute bouts of activity? Think again. Ten minutes of walking three times a day has been shown to lower blood pressure more effectively than a longer 30-minute bout of walking. Something as simple as walking before work, over lunch and after dinner is a fabulous way to squeeze in exercise – no gym required!
3. It’s not just about cardio
When people think of heart-healthy exercise, they generally think of aerobic or cardio activities like jogging. But did you know that strength training (think lifting weights or doing bodyweight exercises like push-ups and lunges) can improve the health of your ticker, too? When you lift weights at a moderate intensity, you get your heart rate up. This means that you’re working both your muscular system and your cardiovascular system. And when you make your muscles stronger, you make your body stronger, which helps everything. So definitely do some resistance training a few times a week.
4. Use exercise to de-stress
Stress plays a critical role in heart health, and exercise is great at kicking stress to the curb. Learn to see exercise not as something that you have to do, but instead as something you want to do because it makes you feel good. While most workouts will pump up your feel-good endorphins, workouts like yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi are especially good for de-stressing and improving the mind-body connection. Try ’em!
5. Support your efforts with a healthy diet
Working out – as awesome as it is – is only part of the heart-health equation. Eating a nutritious diet that’s rich in fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats is key to overall health, along with helping to give you the energy you need to power through those workouts and your everyday life.
Jennipher Walters is the co-founder of FitBottomedGirls and has several fitness credentials under her belt: She is an ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach, and advanced health and fitness specialist, and an AFAA-certified group exercise instructor. She has also written for numerous online publications including Shape magazine, Yahoo! Shine, SparkPeople, and Diets in Review.