Easy Ways to Integrate Activity Into Your Schedule for Heart Health

There are so many barriers to getting regular physical activity it’s almost difficult to know where to begin. You have a hectic schedule with carpools, family outings, kids’ activities and sports, not to mention work responsibilities. It can all get in the way of getting the daily physical activity you need. We all know regular physical exercise is good for us. Even small amounts of robust activity can help reduce certain chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. Exercise can also strengthen bones and muscles, and greatly improve mental health and mood. More importantly, as you age it can assist with keeping you flexible and agile, preventing falls and accidents.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 60 percent of Americans are not meeting the recommended levels of physical activity. Another 16 percent do not do any type of physical activity at all. The report found that men are more active than women, and younger adults are more active than older people. A U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity reveals that inactive people are nearly twice as likely to develop heart disease as those who are more active.

There are no two ways about it; inactivity can lead to an increased risk of heart disease. Heart disease can also lead to plaque formation in the artery walls. After plaque accumulates, it can then burst and release into the bloodstream as a clot. It blocks blood flow and oxygen to the heart, which pumps nutrients and blood to other vital organs and tissues. There are many risk factors that contribute to heart disease. Fortunately, exercise or physical activity happens to be one factor that you have direct control over. You don’t have to be an Olympic gymnast or a marathon runner to get the added benefits of exercise. All it takes is 30 minutes most days of the week to reduce your risk of heart disease.

It’s helpful to know that physical activity can allow us to live a healthier, longer life. The bigger challenge is fitting in the time to get the benefits exercise provides. If you’re feeling guilty or frustrated because there don't seem to be enough hours in a day to exercise, there are small ways you can integrate physical activity into your daily routine without it being a major hassle. Try some of the following ideas. The more active you become, the more you’ll want to stay active. Start with ten minutes of physical activity every day. You can then work up to the recommended 30-minutes in no time.

  1. Break It Up: While it’s recommended that people get 30 minutes of physical activity five times a week, there is nothing that says it has to be done all at once. This is actually good news for those who are strapped for time. Breaking up the 30 minutes of exercise can also provide added heart health benefits. For example, a 10-minute brisk walk in the morning before work, a 10-minute walk around the block while at work, and a 10-minute bike ride with the kids in the evening will work just as well.

  2. Multi-Task: Incorporate chores or yard work into those 30 minutes. Consider some type of yard work, like raking or mowing the lawn with a push mower. Does your car need a good wash and wax? Consider doing it yourself. How about gardening? Not only will you get fresh vegetables, but added exercise when you weed and tend your garden.

  3. Walk Further: Integrate walking into almost any task. For instance, park further away from your local market or mall to get a few minutes of exercise with a brisk walk. Instead of the elevator or escalator, take the stairs.

  4. Find A Friend: Schedule your 30 minutes of physical activity with a friend. If it’s in your calendar, you’re much more likely to meet the commitment. So call a friend for that scheduled bike ride, jog, or walk. Need added incentive? How about a different location! Try a different park or trail rather than the same one over and over again.

  5. Try Something New: Bored already? If just the thought of 30 minutes of exercise makes you cringe or yawn with boredom, how about picking up a new activity, like yoga, tennis, golf, or inline skating. If you’re actually doing an activity you enjoy, you’re more likely to stick with it and do it more often.

  6. Play With The Kids: Get physical with your kids! Consider trying an activity together, like kayaking or canoeing. How about a game of hoops in the driveway, or taking dance lessons as a family?

  7. Watch TV: Jog in place, skip rope, or do jumping jacks during commercials. Don’t fast-forward through the commercials playing during your favorite TV show. Use them to get busy! Commercials last anywhere from 5 to 6 minutes per break. That calculates into at least 15 minutes during an hour-long show that could be spent moving. Before you know it, you’re done!

The important thing here is to get started. Anything that elevates your heart rate qualifies. Make it a habit you can live with and do easily throughout your day. Step away from that electronic device, whether it’s a tablet, PC or cell, and begin enjoying the benefits of a heart healthy activity. You’ll feel more relaxed, sleep better, and truly enjoy living every day with a renewed sense of vigor.

Easy Ways to Integrate Activity Into Your Schedule for Heart Health

This article is for general educational purposes only and is not intended to be used as or substituted for medical advice.  Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified health care provider with any questions about your health or a medical condition.  Never disregard or delay seeking medical advice because of something you have read on the internet.