February is Heart Month, your yearly reminder to take care of your heart health.
There is no shortage of advice, apps, books, shows, magazines, and other resources on how to get and stay healthy. Most of us have tried a few at some point and stick to it just long enough not to feel bad about those New Year’s resolutions we are about to abandon. And why do we end up abandoning most of those New Year’s resolutions? Because they require effort, carving time in an already busy day, it does not come naturally, and let’s face it, a lot of times things don’t go as planned. That is something behavior change experts know well and they have a few tricks to teach us.
Although we are rational human beings and well aware of the long term consequences of our behaviors, we are programmed to respond to immediate rewards. We can alter our environments in a way that makes choosing good behaviors easy and we can think of ways to reap immediate rewards for choosing healthy behaviors. Take biking to work for example, getting to the office energized and less stressed from not dealing with the traffic can be the immediate reward. The same can be said for adding walking into your commute, or during your lunch break. Walking reduces anxiety, depression, and negative mood. And if you have a walking partner, socializing can be your immediate reward. You can also try listening to your favorite music, a podcast, or an audio book. Psychologist Wendy Wood ‘s advice is to reserve listening to your favorite music or podcast when you plan to exercise. This way, you associate your favorite thing with exercising and that way you get rewarded while exercising.
Bottom line, walking and biking are great for heart health. Make walking and biking part of your daily routine whether it is commuting or walking for lunch and you get your daily exercise without having to plan for additional exercise time. Associating healthy behaviors with something rewarding such as feeling energized and less stressed or listening to your favorite music or podcast can make the habit stick for a long time.
You can find more information on the long term benefits of walking and biking here.
And make sure you are equipped with safety items and aware of your surroundings.
Stay safe and healthy!