Heart-healthy exercises for winter (and all year long)

January 09, 2018 | by Dan Johnson
Categories: Healthy Driven Hearts

If you vowed to exercise like crazy in the new year to help lose those holiday cookie pounds, don’t beat yourself up if the resolution doesn’t stick. You’re not alone.

If you joined a gym or started an exercise program for a quick fix, it’s not unusual to quit after two or three weeks, deciding it’s not worth the effort. You have a much better chance of sticking with it when you decide to choose an active lifestyle that will benefit your heart and overall health. And when you discover that regular exercise makes you feel so much better, both physically and emotionally, it can help you stay motivated.

The first step in creating a healthy lifestyle is setting goals that are right for you. Your goal may be to hike in hilly country on vacation, or to enjoy spring gardening with fewer aches and pains. A fitness professional can help you identify your personal goals, along with the right options for meeting them.

When members join Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness, they get a free professional orientation that includes setting goals. There’s no cookie-cutter approach to exercise that works for everyone. Some people like to work out on their own, others prefer to go to a gym or participate in a class. Some don’t like exercise machines, but love swimming or running.

If the blustery weather has you choosing to exercise in the cozy comfort of home, include upper body, lower body, core work and cardio exercises. Here’s a sample workout that can be modified according to your fitness level:

  1. Warm up for 2-5 minutes by doing anything to get your heart rate up, such as running in place or walking.

  2. Upper body work: Push-ups from the floor. Modification 1: Push up from the floor, but leave your knees touching the floor as you push up. Modification 2: Wall push-ups. Standing at arm’s length from a wall, place your palms against the wall at shoulder height and shoulder width. Then bend your elbows and slowly move your body toward the wall, keeping your feet flat on the floor. Slowly push yourself back to where you started.

  3. Lower body work: Freestanding squats to work legs and glutes. Keep your butt pushed out as though you’re about to sit, using hips and thighs to push yourself back up. Don’t push your knees forward as you move. Modification 1: Lean against wall while squatting. Modification 2: Slowly sit down and stand up from a chair. Extend arms in front of you. Keep feet slightly more than shoulder width apart. Bend your knees as you slowly lower your butt into the chair. Keep your knees over your ankles. Return to standing.

  4. Core strengthening: Basic plank. Get into a push-up position but keep your forearms resting on the floor. Hold your feet together, with only your toes touching the floor. Your body should be in a straight line from your head to your feet. Hold the position while keeping your stomach and lower back muscles tightened.

  5. Cardio: Jumping, alternate raising knees or any other activity that raises your heart rate.

  6. Stretches: Simple stretches you might have done in high school gym class will work, such as sitting on the floor and stretching to touch your toes. Do these at the end of your workout, not the beginning. You’d be amazed what simple stretching every day can do, especially if you’re sedentary. It might mean not having to struggle to tie your shoes when you get older.

Do sets of 10-11 repetitions of each exercise. To create a circuit, do each strength, core and cardio exercise for about a minute, with 15 to 60 seconds of rest between exercises, depending on your fitness level.

As time goes by, the more you exercise you do, the better you can feel. But even if time is limited, you can benefit from exercising in spurts throughout the day — even 10 minutes here and there can make a difference.

Learn more about Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness.

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