Five Simple Ways to Boost Your Heart’s Health

As we round the corner into spring, it is a great time to check-in and renew your commitment to a healthy year. A heart-healthy year. If you want to be healthy into your old age, it’s important to begin treating your heart well early on. The American Heart Association emphasizes maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise, a healthy diet, and smoking cessation as primary steps towards preventing heart disease. Assuming you’re up to date on your most recent physical, blood work, and doctor recommendations, what are the biggest ways to impact your heart with your daily choices? Here are five simple ways to boost your heart’s health.Heart Healthy Tips

Avoid Processed Foods. Steering clear of processed foods not only limits hidden sugars, sodium, and fake ingredients that sneak into your diet, it also forces you to emphasize the foods that reduce inflammation, improve your immunity and are packed with fiber, protein and micronutrients that do everything from boost your heart health to increase your ability to recover from your last workout. Try switching your breakfast cereal to oatmeal, which can assist in lowering your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, or building your meals around five foods that benefit your heart to include more produce, lean protein and healthy fats in your diet.

Get Your Workouts Started. For overall heart health, get moving at least 150 minutes per week. That can be 30 minutes every day, 10 minutes a few times each day, or an hour a few times each week. If you are new to working out regularly, or have current heart issues, this is a good zone to stay in for a few months to build up your endurance and confidence. Once these workouts become easier to accomplish and part of your everyday routine, it’s time to start making them tougher. You can start by adding in a tough workout (see below) once or twice a week.

Toughen Up your Workouts. Including tough workouts in your program is one of the best ways to help you manage your weight, as well as challenge your heart to make it stronger. Working out hard means your workouts can be shorter, accomplishing more in less time on busy days. A hard workout also means you’re challenging your heart at a higher level, increasing your cardiovascular fitness, your post workout recovery demands (calorie burn) and building muscle. If your current workouts are bringing you into your aerobic threshold (about 60-70% of your maximum heart rate) and you’re in good physical health, you can start to bring in some interval training that increases your heart rate to between 85% and 100% of your maximum heart rate for brief periods (30 seconds to 2 minutes) during your training. You can do this by increasing either the speed or the resistance on your Vision home fitness equipment, or by using the interval setting provided on most machines.

Lift Weights. To keep improving your overall health and daily functioning, considering adding in some strength training. At a minimum, shoot for two strength training sessions each week, hitting the major muscle groups of your body. If you’re looking to start building muscle and improve your performance, slowly add in a third session to help you see results. (Just be sure to give yourself a day to recover between workouts.) To get even more out of your workout and increase the cardiovascular impact, combine movements to target multiple muscle groups at once, such as stepping into a lunge with a bicep curl or doing full body planks and push-ups to strengthen nearly everything in your body. Another idea is to including strength training as a part of a circuit approach, alternating 60-90 seconds of one exercise with the same period of time on your cardio equipment. Your body will be cashing in on the body changing benefits of a weight routine in no time.

Manage Stress. By choosing regular exercise and a healthy diet, you’ve taken some important steps towards controlling the stress in your life. You can add to those steps by including mindfulness, gratitude, meditation or yoga in your fitness routine. For more suggestions, check out the American Heart Association’s resources on understanding and managing stress. These steps can all pay you back with a happier life now – and better health in the long run.

Do you have a question about general fitness, goal setting, getting the most out of your Vision Fitness equipment, etc.? Our fitness experts would love to answer your question in an upcoming blog post on VisionFitness.com. Just leave your question in the comments below.

 

New Year’s Resolutions That Stick

While New Year’s resolutions frequently get a bad rap, forming one (or more) is a great way to start making healthy changes or to keep things moving in the right direction. Statistics citing that nearly half of all resolutions fail within six months are frequently thrown around to demonstrate the hopelessness of such a venture, but about half of the New Year’s resolvers also manage to make a lasting change. What separates the successful from the sidelines? Setting up the right resolutions and giving yourself the right tools is what it really takes to see a lasting impact from your good intentions.

Make your Resolution Specific. With your Vision Home Fitness equipment, you’ve already got a good start on keeping your fitness resolutions this year. To make sure you’re in the half that succeeds, take the time to make a resolution that sets you up for success. General resolutions such as “exercise more” or “lose weight”, without a specific plan for getting to that goal, sets you up to fail. Make your resolution specific and include a timeframe, whether that means eating two vegetables every day or losing a pound each week. You can also set a health related goal for a future point in time, such as running your first 5K this spring, then work backwards with a plan, such as a couch to 5K schedule or an appointment with a professional to get you on track.

Do your Homework. The website Usa.gov is a great resource for tips on succeeding in your resolutions. From eating healthy and getting active, to finding another job, this page offers a list of common New Year’s resolutions and provides a direct link to a webpage that will provide you with resources to help meet your goal. Even if you’ve already got the “eat right and exercise” thing down, you can still find support for activities that can improve your life and health, as well as that of others, such as volunteering (don’t forget about the Martin Luther King Day of Service on January 20) or enhancing your education. You can also read up on reinforcing your resolutions and creating habits if you really want to make a change in your daily routine.

Create Your Support Network. Simply creating a broad statement of your intention and posting it on Facebook or sharing it with your spouse can actually have a negative effect. Rather than helping you keep your resolution, this may help you feel that you’ve already taken some responsibility for the change and leave you feeling a little freer to make bad choices. Instead, create a network of support through people that are as invested in your goals as you are. This might mean setting up an appointment with a nutritionist, personal trainer, or physical therapist if you need support to reach your eating or exercise goals. You can also find group support through a weight loss focused group or like-minded athletes, such as a running group or intramural sport. If you have a friend or spouse with similar goals, setting up times to train together and ways to celebrate and support each other’s victories can also be a big help.

Measure and Reward. By creating a resolution that is based on time sensitive milestones, you’ve created a calendar for measuring your success. Try to find regular ways to reward your good behavior, especially during the first month. By staying with your resolution through the month of January, you’re ahead of the crowd. While over a third of resolvers tend to break within the first month, failures happen much more slowly after that. When you set up your rewards, find ways to reward yourself that are likely to keep you moving in the direction of the good behavior you’re trying to create. If exercise is your plan, make sure you earn a new pair of running shoes or athletic clothing (or just some new workout music). If you’re looking to eat right, maybe you could pay for a share in a Community Supported Agriculture program or a night out at a restaurant with health conscious offerings. Initially start with frequent rewards, every week or two, and start to space out the frequency after the first month as your new behaviors become habits.

Cheers to a happy and healthy 2014!

Healthy Holiday Tips That Won’t Leave You Feeling Deprived

Finding balance between your commitment to staying fit and well, reality, is tough and it only gets tougher in the holiday season. Close quarters and cold weather challenge our immune systems and unrestricted family time presents its own challenges to our mental health, not to mention the dinner table and the threat it poses to undoing our efforts to eat right and exercise. Here are six tips to stay on track this holiday season and beyond.

Have a good breakfast. While it’s tempting to skip breakfast to offset the damage of the feast to come, doing so sets up a cycle of plummeting blood sugar that leaves you likely to skip your workout, head into the festivities feeling cranky and unlikely to enjoy the party, and ready to put anything into your mouth to hold you over until dinner. Start your morning right with a protein-heavy meal that will hold you for hours to come. Including eggs in your breakfast is a great bet to support weight loss (or maintenance) and a healthy immune system. For just 70 calories per egg, you invest in a high nutrient food that is likely to leave you eating less throughout the day (as much as 400 calories less according to one study)!  You can offset the calories by including a quick workout that will rev up your metabolism and your mood for the rest of the morning.

Squeeze in a morning workout. You’ve already taken a big step towards making your daily workouts convenient and accessible through investing in your home fitness equipment. On days that you’re pressed for time, use your treadmill, elliptical or recumbent bike for a quality workout that packs a big impact in a short period of time. A High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) session is approachable for all fitness levels and will rev up your metabolism and improve your blood sugar in as little as ten minutes (though if you can go for 20 that’s even better). Start out with a short warm-up of 2-5 minutes, then alternate between period of maximum effort (45-90 seconds) and recovery (1-2 minutes). The shorter the recovery period and the longer the intervals, the tougher your training session, so base your approach on your fitness level.  Finish your workout with 2-5 minutes of recovery and enjoy the bragging rights that workout gives you at the day’s festivities.

Practice gratitude. From lowering your blood pressure to improving your mental health, the benefits of gratitude go far beyond lip service. As you head into potentially stressful days, take the time to really recognize the abundance that exists in your daily life. If you have the time, you can even complete this gratitude exercise and see the difference that bringing appreciation into your morning creates throughout the day.

Make plans. Even though family events and a full house can bring their share of stress, they might also be good for you in the long run. Research shows that strong social connections lead to happier, longer lives. Steer clear of those you know set you off and take the opportunity to really connect with someone you care about, whether that’s in person or taking the time to call or send a card. Including the right people in your life can also be a great opportunity to boost your commitment to a healthy lifestyle through supporting your diet and exercise plans.

Get outside. While you’re enjoying your social connections, why not grab your favorite cousin or sibling and head outside? Not only does this give you the chance to create some memories, you can also ditch family members who might be less than supportive of your healthy lifestyle. It’s no secret that spending time outdoors is good for you.  You’ll also receive benefits ranging from strengthened immunity, a healthy dose of Vitamin D (harder to come by at this dark time of year) and improved concentration (just the thing for cleaning up at the post-feast card game).

Enjoy your meal. Sure, the holiday table spread is loaded with caloric nightmares that start with butter and end with whipped cream, however, there are some seriously nutrient-dense choices that grace every traditional table as well. Enjoy your turkey, even the dark meat. Loaded with protein and iron, it’s filled with the stuff you need to build muscle and recover from your tough workouts. Whether you take them baked, in a casserole, or in pie form, enjoy your sweet potatoes and squash. They’re packed with beta carotene that can strengthen your resistance to the cold someone inevitably brought to the party, and maybe even help you to fight off cancer in the long run.

Wishing you a healthy holiday season!