3 Tips for Including Exercise at any Age for Better Heart Health

This article is provided by Heart & Stroke

When it comes to heart health, moving more is always better. Whether you participate in formal exercise activities or find ways to add movement to your daily activities, your heart will thank you. 

Why exercise and physical activity are key factors in heart health

Exercise and physical activity have many benefits, and it’s worth the effort to fit it into your day (and week and month and year). Following the Canadian 24-hour Movement Guidelines and increasing your physical activity can:

  • Have a positive effect on your risk of heart disease and stroke
  • Help prevent and control other risk factors like high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, certain types of cancer and obesity
  • Help reduce stress levels, increase energy, improve sleep, and improve digestion
  • Help you generally feel better and experience the energy we know you crave

Anyone can get their body moving – find what works for you!

Not everyone is at the same activity level, and that’s ok. Perhaps you’re already exercising regularly or you get active by chasing after your kids or grandkids; or maybe you find it hard to exercise because of a busy schedule      or physical limitations. No matter your situation, you can find something that works for you and fits within your lifestyle and interests. There are so many options out there that are more accessible than ever, especially in this digital age.  

Let’s explore three ways you can get your body moving more for heart health.

1. Add more movement into your regular daily activities

There are so many things in our personal and professional lives, and our environment that remove physical activity from our days. Challenge yourself to find ways to add a bit more movement into the regular things you do. For example, consider when you have spent significant time waiting for an elevator, or driving in circles looking for the perfect parking spot that is closer to a building. It’s these times when taking the stairs or parking a bit farther away may actually get you where you are going faster, with the added benefit of more physical activity and movement. Other ideas include: 

  • Take your work meetings on the move; switch to a walking meeting either in person or by phone
  • Get off the bus or subway one stop earlier, then walk the rest of the way 
  • Walk to the mailbox
  • Take the stairs rather than the elevator or escalator
  • Set a timer to stretch, stand and move for a few minutes every hour
  • Use a smaller water bottle or glass so that you need to refill it more often
  • Take a brisk 10-minute walk during your lunch break
  • Play ball with your kids for 10 minutes after work
  • Extend your dog-walking route by 10 minutes
  • Switch family movie night for something more active, like going on a family walk or to park

Many experts recommend aiming for 10,000 steps a day, but start with what suits your lifestyle and current activity level the best, and then work your way up. It might be increasing your steps, distance or minutes but try and find a way to fit more activity into your regular routine. Smart devices like watches or phones or even a simple pedometer, can be great tools for tracking progress. Check out these great tips to get active when you have limited time. 

2. Schedule (and protect) time for individual or group activities

Your heart is a muscle like any other. Physical activity that gets your heart pumping will make your heart stronger over time.

Heart & Stroke recommends at least 2.5 hours (150 minutes) of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week (that’s per week, not per day) in sessions of 10 minutes or more to support heart health. You should aim for 4 to 7 days per week. Remember, if you haven’t been active for a while or are starting something new, you should start slow and build your endurance and intensity over time.

There are a number of activities you can choose from — walking, biking, swimming, yoga, fitness classes, dancing, pickleball, tennis, paddleboarding and more. Here are a few tips to get started:

  • Check out programs that are offered through your local city programming or community centre
  • Ask friends and family for recommendations about what to try
  • Look into online (and often free!) workouts to follow along at home. There is something for every age, body type and fitness level!
  • Start a buddy system with a friend, neighbour, family member or group that is also trying to be more active. Having company makes it more fun and can help you stick it. 

Here are some more activity ideas for different seasons from Heart & Stroke

3. Mix it up and plan for variety 

Variety can help keep you engaged with exercise but it’s also important for your fitness and health. Just like eating a variety of foods helps you get the nutrients you need, a variety of physical activities helps your body get the movement it needs.

Choose a mix of physical activities and workouts that require endurance, strength, flexibility and balance. Try to incorporate a combination of low-intensity cardio (like walking or gentle yoga), moderate- to-vigorous-intensity cardio (like jogging, biking, swimming or a fitness class), strength training, and stretching.

 

Exercise is so important for your health.  Adding more physical activity into your regular day, scheduling and protecting time for exercise and including a variety of activities are great strategies that you can start right now.

Consider Newton’s first law of motion (the law of inertia) – an object (or person) at rest, stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion. The hardest thing to do is getting started, once you do, you’ll be moving more, feeling great and taking action towards a healthy heart.

Please always check with a medical professional to ensure these strategies are right for you.

© 2022, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada

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