Heart at Work

3 Heart-Smart Goals To Make Now

Simple choices can make your heart stronger. Use these three goals to boost your heart health.

As you read this article, your heart muscle is working twice as hard as those muscles in your legs do during a full-out spring. But if you’re like most Americans, you’re not looking after your ticker. It’s time to stop taking your heart for granted—pledge to show it some love with our fitness challenge.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, killing one in four females. Scary? Yes. Preventable? Absolutely. It’s a fact that people who follow at least six of seven heart-health recommendations from the American Heart Association (AHA)—which include maintaining a healthy weight and blood pressure—have a 76 percent lower risk of heart disease than those who heed none of the measures. Despite these powerful odds, only 1 percent of the population meets these targets and less than half of us follow one of the most important recommendations: to get moving.

“Conversations about preventing heart disease often revolve around medicine, but physical activity should be the first thing doctors prescribe,” says Annabelle Volgman, MD, a scientific advisor at WomenHeart, a heart disease coalition. Besides strengthening the heart itself, exercise greatly reduces heart disease risk factors such as stress and high cholesterol. So don’t miss a beat; commit to our challenge for a healthy ticker today.


Lower Your Risk—Now 

Challenge yourself to move more with these three totally doable goals.

Goal 1: Put in the Time

The AHA recommends at least 150 minutes of weekly exercise, or five 30-minute sessions. The key is to accelerate your heart rate, but there’s no need to sign up for a boot camp class, says I-Min Lee, MD, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Most research shows that the amount of time you work out matters more than how hard you push yourself. Exercising moderately, so you can still carry a normal conversation, is a good place to start.”

Achieve it Pick your favorite aerobic activity, or follow our workout plan here. If you are already getting the recommended amount of weekly exercise, aim to bump up your routine by ten minutes every two weeks.


Goal 2: Take a Stand

Too much sitting time increases your chance of dying from heart disease by 64 percent. But physical breaks, even simply standing up, can help lower that risk.

Achieve it. Whether you get up for water or take a lap around the office, just do something to move your body. Aim for at least two minutes of movement every hour, plus two daily 10-minute walking breaks.


Goal 3: Tone Your Ticker 

Weight-bearing exercises help prevent chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, a heart disease risk factor, so try to work in at least two strength-training sessions per week.

Achieve it. A study found that yoga can help keep heart rates steady and healthy. Our yoga-inspired routine here (created by Jayme Spivey, owner of Yoga for Exercise, and Jane Hyat-Khan, instructor at FreedJourney Yoga, both in Cumming, GA) uses dumbbells to further increase your ticker benefits. Start with 2- or 3-pound weights.

RELATED: How Exercise Makes the Heart Stronger