5 Heart Healthy Activities for February

Jumpstart Your Heart Health with a Walking Program

Heart disease can strike at any age. In honor of American Heart Month and Valentine’s Day, now is a great time to learn about your risks and the steps you can take to protect your heart health. The top three risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. Half of all adults in the U.S. have at least one of these risk factors.

Exercise can help manage all three of these conditions by improving both blood pressure and cholesterol, and acting as a healthy habit and distraction while trying to quit smoking,” says Melissa Mellady, exercise physiologist at Northwestern Medicine Executive Health and Northwestern Medical Group.

Mellady shares five heart-healthy ways to spend American Heart Month this year.

  1. Take a long walk with your favorite valentine. If it’s too icy outside, walk indoors on a walking track or at the mall. Work toward at least 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity each week to keep your heart healthy. You can reach this goal by walking briskly for at least 30 minutes, five days each week. Move more, with more intensity, and sit less.
  2. Instead of giving candy as a gift, consider the gift of spending quality time with those you love. Try a winter exercise together, such as ice skating, sledding or snowshoeing.
  3. Spend date night at a yoga studio. Practicing yoga can help you relax, reflect, clear the clutter of everyday life and focus on what really matters: your health and your family. Plus,yoga has been shown to lower blood pressure.
  4. Commit to regular walks with your dog. In North America, about 25 to 30 percent of the canine population is obese. Improve your heart health and your dog’s heart health by going on regular walks in the morning or evening together.
  5. Take time today to tell your loved ones how much they mean to you and how important their health is to you. Hold each other accountable by making a plan to get or stay fit this year. Write it out and be there to support each other every week. There is no greater gift than the gift of health.

Walking Interval Program

To get started on a new exercise routine, follow the Walking Interval Program below for a full month.

Start with Interval Training Workout 1, and include this in your routine three times per week. After you have done this for two weeks, progress to Interval Training Workout 2 for one week and then Interval Training Workout 3 for one week. The higher-intensity pace should feel difficult, and you shouldn’t be able to sustain it for a very long time. As you progress, you can move from walking to running.

Interval Training Workout 1

  • Warm up at a gentle pace (5 minutes)
  • One-minute higher intensity, three minutes easy: Do this five times (for a total of 20 minutes)
  • Cool down at a gentle pace (5 minutes)

Interval Training Workout 2

  • Warm up at a gentle pace (5 minutes)
  • Two minutes higher intensity, two minutes easy: Do this five times (for a total of 20 minutes)
  • Cool down at a gentle pace (5 minutes)

Interval Training Workout 3

  • Warm up at a gentle pace (5 minutes)
  • Three minutes higher intensity, one minute easy: Do this five times (for a total of 20 minutes)
  • Cool down at a gentle pace (5 minutes)