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Heart Health Month

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Ah, February. The month of love. Of the color red. Of doing something for that special someone in your life.

But did you know that it’s also American Heart Month? Clearly it’s important to keep our hearts healthy, but sometimes actually doing it is a challenge.

So this month, let’s join with millions of others by fighting against heart disease and stroke.

Physical activity can increase the length and quality of our lives. Health experts recommend that we get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity (e.g., brisk walking) each day to lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Exercising has other benefits as well, such as a better mood, reduced stress, and improved immune system. Try one (or all) of these workouts to improve your heart health and fight against heart disease.

Treadmill Workout

  • Walk—5 minutes
  • Jog—2 minutes
  • Walk—2 minutes
  • Run—1 minute
  • Walk—2 minutes
  • Jog—4 minutes
  • Walk—1 minute
  • Run—2 minutes
  • Walk—2 minutes
  • Jog—4 minutes
  • Walk—2 minutes
  • Run—3 minutes
  • Walk—5 minutes

Heart Health Month

Medicine Ball Circuit Training

Use a medicine ball for each of these exercises to increase the resistance and intensity of your workout. Perform 2–3 sets of 10–20 repetitions of each exercise in a circuit before moving to the next circuit. Transition to each exercise with minimal rest to keep your heart rate elevated, but appropriate for your fitness level.

Circuit 1

  • Push-ups (hands balanced on the medicine ball)
  • Berry pickers (touch the medicine ball to one foot and then to the other foot)
  • Squats (hold the medicine ball for added weight)

Circuit 2

  • Walking lunges with a twist (when you lunge, twist the medicine ball over the forward leg)
  • Medicine ball slams (slam the medicine ball down to the ground from overhead)
  • Straight arm sit up (complete a sit up while holding the medicine ball straight over your head)

Circuit 3

  • Medicine ball arm swings (like kettlebell swings, but with a medicine ball)
  • Toe touches (lie on your back, hold your feet straight up toward the ceiling, and press the medicine ball to your toes)
  • Wood choppers (keep your arms straight as you hold the medicine ball, and swing from one side of your body to the other, low to high; repeat on other side)

No-Equipment-Needed Cardio

Perform each exercise for 30 seconds, then rest 30 seconds before moving on to the next exercise. Complete 2–3 circuits. For a bigger challenge, try a 40/20 exercise-to-rest ratio or even a 45/15 ratio.

  • High knees
  • Jumping jacks
  • Mountain climbers
  • Crunches
  • Planks
  • Squats
  • Side-to-side hops

Heart-Friendly Foods

Of course, eating habits have a huge impact on heart health, but what foods offer the greatest benefits? Heart-healthy foods include those that are low in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars. Foods that contain lean protein and that are high in whole grains are also healthy for your heart. Put a big focus on eating more fruits and vegetables of all varieties, which will help you control your weight and reduce your blood pressure. Eating fish at least twice a week can also help lower your risk of heart disease.

Try incorporating these uncommon foods into your daily diet for improved heart health.

Lentils

In a 25-year study on 12,763 people in the United States, Japan, and six European countries, the researchers found that legumes—such as lentils—are associated with an 82% reduction in the risk of death from heart disease. Lentils and other legumes are are packed with protein and fiber, as well as folate, magnesium, and potassium. Magnesium and potassium are crucial for keeping blood pressure under control.

Kale

Green Smoothie

Green Smoothie

Kale is loaded with heart-healthy antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, folate, potassium, and vitamin E. The leafy green also has plenty of lutein and glucoraphanin, which help protect against early atherosclerosis, a hardening of the arteries that occurs over time as fat and cholesterol build up on arterial walls.

Check out our post “Week of Green Smoothies” for some green smoothies that contain kale.

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