Take Charge of Your Heart Health with Exercise
The most significant barrier to exercise is not what to do, but finding the motivation to do it. Experts recommend setting short- and long-term goals, or having a very specific plan in place. What else can you do to keep up your routine?
Focus on perceived exertion. Heart rate can be a fairly inaccurate measure of how hard you’re working, particularly if you’re on medication for your heart. "We recommend the walk-and-talk test to tell if you’re working hard enough,” says Dalene Bott-Kitslaar, RN, MSN, F-CNP, of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Basically, you should be working hard enough (whether walking or another activity) that you can’t easily carry on a conversation – you have to stop and catch your breath while talking.
Don’t sell walking short. Measure your daily steps by wearing a pedometer all day, and try to get your step count up to 10,000 per day. Keep bumping the number up by 1,500 steps a day until you reach the goal. Walking this amount each day can make a real difference – and you only need comfortable clothes and a good pair of shoes.
Individualize your routine. "What works well for one doesn’t work for others,” says Bott-Kitslaar. "Pick something you enjoy. Tap dance – or ballroom dance! As long as you’re moving, your heart is benefiting.” Some women enjoy variety, picking different activities throughout the week to work different muscle groups.
Find a "personal trainer” to stay motivated. Sometimes this can be a personal trainer at your health club, but use what you have available – Bott-Kitslaar’s "personal trainers” are her dogs, who don’t let her sit down after work without their daily walk. "Find someone or something in your life – your dog, your child, your husband or mother – to motivate you to take care of yourself,” she says.