Just taking baby steps toward heart health is a big step toward better overall health, says the American Heart Association (AHA) website. Kari Richie, health and fitness director at Springmoor, a senior living community in Raleigh, N.C., echoes that sentiment with an example.
“A 93-year-old resident scores off the charts for fitness because she is always walking and participating in cardio-aqua and walking with weights classes,” says Kari. “In the Up & Go test (stand up and walk 10-feet around a cone) she scored 5.4 seconds – that’s in the 90th percentile for her age!”
While not all of us can be poster athletes for our age group, we can improve our heart health by taking certain measures, including building up to 30 to 60 minutes of exercise every day.
However, Kari suggests older newcomers start with five-minutes of exercise a day, or several times a day, and gradually build up, “Every little bit counts because even small steps are beneficial to our cardio and overall health.”
Exercise is beneficial to heart health because the heart is a muscle that needs to be used. Regular exercise makes the heart more efficient in its job of carrying oxygen and nutrients to the rest of our body. Kari likes to start newcomers with some very basic movements, such as marching (seated or standing), toe taps, kicks and hamstring curls, “Always done at a safe and comfortable speed.”
Valerie Washington, owner of New Fitness Lifestyle in Kirkland, Wash., includes cardio exercise as a key component to enjoying overall quality of life. A wellness/lifestyle coach with many specialties including senior fitness, the 65-year-old personal trainer explains that the heart needs to be exercised similar to how it performs for us in real life. That is, the heart needs to be able to muster when we put it to a task such as walking up hills or chasing after grandchildren.
To mimic lifestyle requirements in the workout, Valerie integrates workouts with lots of HIIT (high intensity interval training). When walking, for example, she recommends clients alternate two minutes of brisk walking or walking up a hill with three-to-five minutes of strolling. The stroll part of the walk allows for the heart to recover before the next bout of hard work. “You can add interval training to most any workout including swimming, stationary bike training, running or weight training (by lifting overhead),” says Valerie.
To incorporate her philosophy, “Motion is lotion,” Valerie suggests a number of easy ways to exercise the heart: walking, swimming if you have joint issues, adding squats and lunges to build the backside muscles and improve posture as well as light weight training. “A little weight training helps build bone density and works the heart,” says Valerie. “Even a one-pound weight makes a difference!”
So, if you or your Valentine could use a little boost to improve your heart health, Kari recommends you take a look at the AHA website and in particular the MyLife Check® section.
Here you will find a simple list of seven baby steps that promise to improve your life:
- Get Active
- Control Cholesterol
- Eat Better
- Manage Blood Pressure
- Lose Weight
- Reduce Blood Sugar
- Stop Smoking