February is Heart Health Month, your yearly reminder to take care of your heart. While the month is almost over, there are things you can do for the rest of the year that make a difference in your overall health, including heart health. You’ve probably heard by now that sitting all day comes with a high risk of heart disease. “Sitting is the new smoking” they say. And since many of us work from home, more people report sitting for long periods of time, either in meetings or because they have a burst of productivity and go for long periods of time without getting up. While the science is not in agreement on all issues– some studies say sitting for eight hours is bad for you even if you exercise afterwards, while others say 60 minutes of moderate to intense activity may counteract the effects of sitting too long–one thing is clear, we need to take care of our hearts. Physical activity, along with managing stress and diet, has a positive effect on your health. Here are a few steps you can take to keep your heart healthy:
- Keep your walking routine going – many people started walking every day during the pandemic. If you are one of them keep that going every day, 30 minutes of walking per day can help your overall health as well as your mental health. Or you can start walking your children to school – if that is an option. Walking your children to school can help both of you with physical activity goals and children arrive at school more energized and ready to learn.
- Biking gets your heart pumping with minimal impact on your joints – Incorporate bicycling into your daily routine. Some ways to do that are: bicycling to work a few times a week when you begin to commute again, biking your kids to school, bicycling for a few of your errands, and just for fun!
- Be social – spending time with other people is good for your heart. Go for a walk or hike with your family and/or your friend. This way the whole family gets to spend time outdoors, get fresh air and be physically active.
- Keep your stress in check – try yoga and/or mindfulness to keep stress levels down and protect your health. You can try mindful walking for added impact for both physical and mental health.
- Eat heart healthy foods – including fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains, healthy fats, and beans or other legumes. For added benefits, walk or bike to the grocery store. And if walking and biking is not possible, try parking farther away from the entrance.
These are just a few tips to make your daily routine heart healthy or healthier. Remember, you don’t have to spend a lot of time at the gym to get the benefits of physical activity. Active transportation like bicycling and walking can be part of a healthy lifestyle, and they’re easy to incorporate into your daily routine while you are running errands, go to work, or take the kids to school. Bicycling gets your heart pumping with minimal impact on your joints. Even just 10 minutes of cycling a day can improve your fitness level. Walking as a regular activity can also help reduce your risk of heart disease. Adding any regular activity to your routine is beneficial.