Did you know that simple activities like walking your dog and doing household chores can help keep you heart healthy? Anything that raises your heart rate and increases your breathing counts as aerobic exercise, which improves cardiovascular function and helps burn calories. Given that heart disease (which includes heart attack, stroke, and heart failure) is the number one cause of death—in the world—it makes absolute sense to take baby steps to manage your heart health. Healthy diet and intense exercise aside, these 6 activities are the best way to get started!
(If you have other low-key heart health activity ideas, comment below!)
1. Use your green thumb!
Rheumatologist and 5-star doctor Dr. Thomas Namey says, “Gardening can be light to heavy physical activity, where caloric burn averages 400-500 kcal per hour.” Whether it’s a bit of weeding or casually watering the flowers, you’ll get your blood pumping. Plants also give off oxygen, so you’ll be inhaling fresh air. Dr. Charles Cattano, a gastroenterologist, says gardening can be wonderful for mind, body, and spirit for these reasons: it’s great for your hand function, helps burn calories (gardeners are more physically fit!), and it fights depression. Besides cultivating the earth, gardening is also a wonderful way to cultivate mindfulness. Clinical psychologist Dr. Susan Feingold says it has meditative qualities which provide relaxation.
3. Walk your dog—or yourself!
Walking is considered by doctors to be low-impact exercise, and exercise of any kind improves heart health and helps maintain muscle strength, according to rheumatologist Dr. Ronald Krauser. Endocrinologist Dr. David Sneid says that you can burn approximately 100 calories per mile, so challenging yourself by increasing the pace and distance will increase the number of calories you burn. Best of all, you’re never too old or too young to go for a walk. Check out this blog post on the 7 Surprising Health Benefits of Walking.
4. Play with your kids
Playtime isn’t just for children. Join your kids in some fun, get in some bonding time, and burn some calories while you’re at it. If you’re outside, play tag, swing on the monkey bars, or do some more athletic sports. If you’re inside, play hide-and-seek or even some dancing video games. If it raises your heart rate, it counts as exercise! If you think you don’t have the energy, include music in your playtime, like musical chairs: Dr. Cory Annis, a specialist in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, says, “Listening to fast music makes it easier to clean the house, mow the lawn, and do lots of things we think we don’t have energy for. Rhythm has a physical impact on us.”
5. Clean the house
Speaking of cleaning house…cleaning can be a chore, but there are many ways to make it fun and heart-healthy! Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mark Gallandsuggests keeping a brisk pace as you clean—sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, dusting, etc. He also recommends invest in a cuff weight that you can attach to your ankles and wrists to give a little bit of resistance as you do normal actions. Also, when moving from room to room, try to skip, jump, or lunge from point A to point B.
6. Make whoopie
Feeling frisky? It’s good for your heart! Preventive Medicine specialist Dr. Janet Greenhut notes that most people like to have sex for reasons other than getting more exercise, but it’s still a physical activity that gets your blood moving. Podiatrist Dr. Scott Keith also says, “Just as in other forms of exercise, this type of conditioning can increase stamina and performance levels.” It’s a win-win situation, to say the least!