Daily exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. It’s also great for heart health! Making heart-healthy choices, knowing your family health history and the risk factors for heart disease, having regular check-ups, and working with your physician to manage your health -- are all integral in saving lives from this often silent killer.
February is heart health month. To wrap up this month we want to encourage you to ramp up your cardio routine and add more cardio activity into your everyday life. Cardio doesn’t have to be a dreaded activity. There are a variety of ways to keep cardio fun so both you and your heart, are healthy and happy. Cardio can be adjusted based on your age, activity level, and preference. Here are a few tips to kick off your cardio.
Set Concrete Goals.
It’s important to make set concrete goals and actively allocate time for workouts. Plan out your week ahead of time. The minimum amount of recommended physical activity a day is 30 minutes. Book yourself in for a 30 minute walk when you’re unable to commit to an hour. On other days, commit to 20 minutes of intense cardio, at least three times a week. Create a new routine that prioritizes your workouts and get rid of time-wasters that prevent you from making room in your schedule (ex. phone scrolling, movie marathons, & sleeping in).
Make It Fun.
For some people, even the word cardio elicits a negative reaction. In the moment, being drenched in sweat and feeling the heart pounding adrenaline in our chest can feel invigorating. However, when we think about it from the comfort of our beds, it sounds taxing. In recent years, gyms and communities have made an effort to make cardio fun. Dance classes, spinning to music videos, kickboxing with a professional, or challenging friends to circuit training, are all entertaining ways to get in your workout. Choose something you have always loved and turn it into a workout. A few examples include:
- Spin class
- Boxing or kickboxing
- Dance class
- Swimming laps
- Jumping rope
- Circuits to music
- Group challenges
Keep Things Interesting, Add Intervals to Workouts.
The same old gym routine becomes a snore fast. Mix things up and keep cardio interesting so you aren’t dreading your stale workout. Alternate between very intense rounds of exercise lasting 20-45 seconds coupled with rest periods that last twice as long. Repeat this process for 8 -10 intervals and be sure to start with a warm-up and cool-down. This is also called HIIT - high-intensity interval training - and is great for burning fat and accelerating weight loss.
Challenge Yourself, Join a Race.
You’ve probably heard a few success stories about individuals who thought they could never run a marathon and signed up to challenge themselves and overcome these obstacles of doubt. This person can be you. A race is a huge motivator. The impending date of a race keeps motivation high and encourages people to stick to their cardio goals. You might choose to do a 5KM, a 10 KM, or even a half or full marathon if you feel ambitious. You can visualize that finish line creeping up as you go on your morning jogs. Plus, you’re sure to feel a sense of accomplishment after you’re done. What’s more motivating than that?
No Gym? No Problem.
Have a workout routine ready for those times you can’t make it to the gym (or simply don’t want to). Below is a workout you can try anytime, in the comfort of your home.
60 seconds - High knees
60 seconds - Jump rope
Rest for 10 seconds between each exercise.
50 seconds - Mountain
50 seconds - Burpees
50 seconds - Jump rope
50 seconds - High knees
50 seconds - Side running
Engage in a max of 4 rounds. If you can only do 1 to begin with start there and increase your cardio ability until you can reach 4.
Engage in 5-10 minutes of stretching to cool down.
Your Cardio Kick-Off Summary
- Create a schedule to make time for cardio
- Sign up for a fun new workout like a dance class
- Engage in 30 min of low-intensity cardio a day
- Engage in 20 minutes of high-intensity cardio 3x/week
- Try high intensity interval training
- Join a 5k, 10k race or half/full marathon
- Have an at-home workout ready at all times
Remember, habit formation takes time. Commit to at least one month of cardio and prioritize your workouts. Ditch unproductive time-wasting habits and realize that your health should always come first. Although, family, work and everything in-between feels all-consuming at times, you can’t take care of anything else until you take care of yourself. Stay heart healthy this year and ramp up your routine with fun, active, and rewarding cardio exercise!