February is American Heart Month, so let’s give some love to that muscle that keeps you alive (uh, your heart)!
The stronger your heart is, the more blood your heart is able to pump with every heart beat. Which means the weaker your heart is, it takes more energy and more heartbeats to pump the same amount of oxygen throughout your body to the needed cells.
Did you know that 1 out of every 4 Americans die due to heart disease EVERY YEAR – that’s about 610,000 deaths per year. The number is higher for number of heart attacks every year – 710,000 people have them. These aren’t just random people, look at your family and loved ones – you probably already know someone who has it or had it.
So, if this doesn’t inspire you to start living heart healthy, then we guess you should stop reading here.
Let’s get focused on our hearts, everyone! We will not only focus physically, but mentally and socially, as well. Your heart is affected by all aspects of you health – so let’s get to it!
Here’s your February Happy Heart Challenge:
Let’s go into a little more detail with the challenge. See each day below:
Sundays: #soulfulsundays are about planning out your week and spending some quality time with loved ones.
- *Plan out 150 minutes of cardio for the week. Why? Because only 1 out of every 5 Americans get enough exercise in to maintain good health.
- Cardio is any repetitive motion that keeps your heart rate up.
- Try walking, jogging, hiking, biking, swimming, fitness classes, gardening (but the digging and heavy lifting kind), rowing, elliptical and more. Need more ideas? Ask us!
- 150 minutes is 2.5 hours and you can break it up however you like – 30 minutes 5x a week, 20 min 5x & 25 min. twice, 50 minutes 3x a week – you decide – but get in at least that amount of time.
- Sundays are also a perfect day to plan out heart healthy meals for the week with lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes (beans and peas), non-tropical vegetable oils (such as extra virgin olive oil), and meat-eaters should try to eat more skinless poultry and fish and less saturated fatty meats.
- Planning out meals equals heart healthy success.
- Now that you’ve made a plan for the week, spend some active time with your family and friends.
Mondays: #moveitmondays are for starting the week out right with moving your body!
- Just like we said above, do a cardiovascular activity that gets your heart pumping!
- Here’s some ideas we’ve posted from earlier blog posts: complete a mile, a 30 min. walk/jog workout, walk the beach, stairs workout– just click Move It Mondays for all our heart healthy workouts.
Tuesdays: #tastytuesdays are about focusing on health from the inside.
- We challenge you to eat heart healthy all day – could you try to get in 9-10 servings of fruits and veggies today (and everyday)? Wait -before you say no way and skip ahead – a serving size is smaller than you think. Here’s what the American Heart Association says about serving sizes: here.
- Eat whole grains: oatmeal, whole oats, whole wheat, brown or wild rice, barley, and even popcorn. Have 6 servings per day – a slice of bread or 1/2 cup cooked rice, oatmeal, barley, etc.
- Eat nuts: pistachio, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, etc.
- Eat beans: A half cup is a serving size.
- Your nuts and beans should equal at least 5 servings a week. We personally say to focus more on your bean intake – chickpeas (hummus counts), pinto, kidney, and black beans – just to name a few.
- Limit meats and dairy and try to focus on leaner options – look at saturated fat content of these ingredients.
- No processed food today. Let’s say it again – no processed food. Anything that is processed down and packaged – even if it says healthy, lean, etc. For one whole day, we want you to cook or plan every meal from scratch. Here’s an example of what we mean: Breakfast can be oatmeal with nuts and berries, lunch can be a salad with beans and oil/vinegar dressing or a sandwich, and dinner could be sweet potato kale cakes and you could add skinless chicken or fish if you don’t want a completely vegetarian day.
- Check out more food ideas in our Tasty Tuesday category here.
Wednesdays: #workoutwednesdays are for focusing on strength.
- You can combined strength training exercises and cardio for heart, body muscle, and bone health by doing circuit, hiit, or tabata style workouts with little to no rest in between exercises. Basically, your rest is transitioning from exercise to exercise.
- *Plan out anywhere from 3 -10 exercises and repeat 1-5x.
- With the example above you could start with a march or jog in place (for your heart), going into side lunges, elevated push ups (head above heart), jumping jacks, squat to press, skaters (jumping side to side), into balanced tricep extensions – alternating a heart-pumping cardio exercise with a strength training exercise. Repeat series 1-5x. Stretch.
- Need more exercises? Check out our Workout Wednesday Category for more ideas.
- Make sure you can always say AT LEAST 4 words without catching your breath.
Thursdays: #thursdaythoughts are about increasing not only your happiness, but spreading kindness and love to others.
- For American Heart Month, spread some love to others. Be creative. When you give happiness, you get happiness.
- Send someone a lovely text or note.
- Go for a walk with a friend.
- Volunteer your time.
- Make a meal for those in need or for a sick friend.
- You get the idea! Check out some other ideas from our Thursday Thoughts category. 🙂
Fridays: #fridayflow focuses on yoga, pilates, prehab, selfcare and flexibility.
- *Sun Salutations are a series of exercises where you flow from one pose to the next.
- You can do a traditional series or use a more modern or eclectic approach of poses and exercises at your own pace. If you pick up the pace, you increase your heart rate (therefore, conditioning your heart at the same time – win!).
- Just always focus on your breath.
- Need more Friday Flow? Check out our other blog posts here.
Saturdays: #saturdaycelebrations are for hydrating drinks and smoothies!
- Get in even more fruits and veggies by making heart healthy smoothies.
- Use berries of all kinds, dark leafy greens, flaxseeds, nut milks, oats, etc. Try to stay away from high fat dairy or yogurt for your smoothies. With all the nutrients in the suggestion above, you get more than your share of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.
- Add in a serving of nuts if you are looking for more protein.
- Check out our Saturday Celebration recipes here!
Make small changes each day for big heart changing results. Good luck and let us know how it goes!
*Consult with your physician before starting any new exercise or food prescription.