February is the month of love! One of the best ways we can show ourselves and our loved ones love is by taking good care of our body and our heart. 80% of heart disease is preventable according to the American Heart Association, yet heart disease is the leading cause of death for women.
It’s not just affecting our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and friends – it’s affecting us. After menopause, risks to heart health accelerate with the loss of estrogen. These hormonal changes can have an effect on cholesterol and blood pressure levels, making heart health of utmost importance for women post menopause.
As we age, it’s important to keep close tabs on our lab results such as cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and BMI. Check in with your doctor regularly and take steps to improve your stats when necessary.
In addition, there are 4 essential types of exercise that can improve your heart health and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Before we dive into the types of exercise for a healthy heart, here’s a quick reminder for how much exercise is needed to see a difference. Research advises 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity per week, which boils down to about 20 minutes per day.
Exercise not only improves your heart health and can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, but it helps your brain and memory, boosts your mood, gets rid of aches and pains in your joints by building your muscles and bones, improves your energy levels, improves quality of sleep, and helps you to maintain a healthy weight.
As a fitness coach for women over 50, one of the biggest struggles I hear is a lack of self-motivation to exercise. The best way to bypass this lack of motivation is to develop a habit. If your health and your wellness is important enough to you, find a few forms of movement you can enjoy whether it’s cycling, rowing, kayaking, hiking, dancing, yoga, zumba, or strength training.
Pick an activity and exercise at a moderate intensity every single day. Schedule it on your calendar and plan to exercise at a similar time to ensure that nothing else will take over this time.
When life gets stressful, too busy, or the workouts are too hard for your body, you will quit. But don’t let this happen! Building a habit of exercise will help you to beat the stress, which is great for your heart. Carving out 20 minutes a day of exercise is absolutely worth it for your health.
Many women over 50 think that cardiovascular exercise like walking, cycling, swimming, or hiking is the best exercise to improve heart health. After 50, it becomes essential to add a mix of cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and mobility exercise to your routine.
Aerobic exercise improves circulation, which results in lowered blood pressure and heart rate, and improves how well your heart pumps. Aerobic exercise also reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes and, if you already live with diabetes, helps you control your blood glucose.
Strive to get 20-30 minutes a day of brisk exercise that gets your heart pumping. You want to be able to carry a conversation but feel a little breathless. If you had to measure it on a scale of 0-10 where 0 was sitting on the coach and 10 was running a marathon, aim to exercise at a 5/10 for your cardiovascular activity.
To get even more out of your cardiovascular exercise use interval training. This can pick up your intensity to 7/10 and challenge your body a little more. Start with a regular pace, add a quicker intensity or walk up a hill or incline for 10 seconds or 30 seconds or up to a minute, depending on your fitness level, then return to your moderate intensity. Work up to adding several intervals throughout your workout.
For a quick 10-minute indoor interval workout, check out this video:
Most people don’t realize that strength training is also very important for your heart health. Resistance training can help to improve your blood flow and lead to longer lasting blood pressure control. Strength training also helps to build muscle, creating a leaner body composition and improved control in your body for daily tasks with less pain.
Add strength training twice a week for at least 20 minutes through lifting weights, using resistance bands, or your own body weight working the major muscle groups of your body such as with squats, planks, rows, and pushups.
For examples of strength training movements, check out this quick video:
One may not think of stretching and mobility training as good for your heart health but to be able to maintain a good routine of exercise, mobility exercises are helpful. Mobility exercises can also ease aches and pains, especially early in the morning, and allow for improved circulation, and even stress reduction. For a gentle stretching routine to use before bed or in the morning, follow this video:
The combination of the right exercise every day, along with a healthy diet and limiting alcohol and smoking, can improve your heart health and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease significantly.
For a full 7-day workout guide and the best routine to Thrive after 55, get your free copy of my Thrive after 55 guide.
Do you monitor your heart health? What do you do to keep track? Can you say your lifestyle is a healthy one? Do you do enough exercising every day? What kind of exercise do you need to do more of?
Tags Fitness Over 60