Are you doing all you can to take care of your ticker?

Cardiovascular health is a topic that should be near and dear to everyone’s heart. And yet, many of us forget to focus on keeping this muscle fit. Such simple habits as limiting sodium consumption and managing stress levels help to power and protect our heart. But exercise is the elixir to lowering, controlling and even eliminating heart-related conditions.

Like prescribed medication, exercise works well only when done consistently and correctly. Because physical activity increases pressure on the heart, it is important for those with hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, those who have had a heart attack or stroke, are overweight or recently quit smoking, to practice caution by consulting a physician before starting a new routine.

The following heart-healthy homework helps to improve overall cardiovascular health. When performing these exercises, choose lighter weights to avoid straining and don’t hold your breath, as these slip-ups can cause blood pressure to spike.

For best results, repeat this circuit three times, two to three days each week. On off days or in addition to this routine, try to incorporate at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. Here are some options to fulfill this goal:

  • Walk, jog or bike
  • Engage in such sports as tennis, basketball or pickleball 
  • Swim
  • Dance
  • Do such exercise-like chores as shoveling snow or mowing the lawn

Warm-up: 30-second stationary march

Take a stand

  • Sit on a stable seat or bench with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms extended in front of your body.
  • Keep your shoulders back and gaze forward as you push through your heels, elevating your body into a standing position. Squeeze your glutes tight for two counts then lower your body back down to the seat. Avoid using your upper body for momentum or pushing off with your arms. This is a lower-body exercise. Repeat 10 times. Once you are comfortable with this exercise you can incorporate light free weights. 
Sit to stand.
Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt
Sit to stand.

Step it up

  • Place your right foot on the center of a sturdy step or bench.
  • Push through your right heel to elevate your body and simultaneously swing your left leg up, driving your left knee toward your torso. This will engage your abs. 
  • Hold for two counts then lower your left leg to the starting stance. Keep your right foot on the bench for 10 repetitions then switch sides.
Step up
Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt
Step up

A loaded lunge

  • Begin by standing with feet hip-width apart.
  • Take a large lateral step with your right leg and push back at your hips to lower into a side lunge. Check that your feet are parallel and toes are forward facing. Keep your chest up and gaze forward. 
  • Push through the right heel and swing your right leg diagonally behind the body so your body weight is now resting on your front left heel. Lower your body so your front thigh is parallel with the floor. Hold for two counts. Continue repeating this see-saw sequence for 10 repetitions then switch legs. Incorporate a light free weight for an added challenge. 
See-saw lunge.
Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt
See-saw lunge.

Ashley Blake Greenblatt, ACE-CPT, is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach with a focus on movement and mindfulness. To learn more, visit ashleyblakefitness.com.