Regular exercise is essential for heart health. But thankfully, you don’t need to go to the gym or use special equipment to get in some heart healthy exercise. You can create a fitness routine out of everyday activities like housecleaning, gardening or walking up and down the stairs. Even dancing around the room to your favorite radio tune or commercial jingle can work! As a caregiver, your days and nights are busy, but with a little creativity you can work some exercise into the tightest of schedules.
Even something as simple as taking a walk around the block can make a difference, says Nicole Palacios, a personal trainer and fitness professional in Vancouver, Canada, who is certified by the American Council on Exercise (ACE). “Every bit adds up,” she assures.
Wearable technology can help you keep track of your progress.
‘It’s especially informative to use a heart rate monitor when you do things around the house like vacuuming, sweeping, raking leaves–even just tidying up– to see how high your heart rate goes,” Palacios says.
For a fun way to mix some cardiovascular fitness into your cooking, check out fitness pro Andia Winslow’s “Kitchen Workout” video, featuring exercises like “potato-sack deadlifts” and “rolling-pin squats,” on YouTube.
Sharla Mandere, a group fitness instructor and ACE-certified personal trainer in San Diego, offers several other great ideas for everyday heart health exercise:
Gardening and yard work
Instead of kneeling as she pulls weeds from her garden, Mandere likes to do squats. If you try this move, be careful not to bend forward and lift with your back.
“Make sure you’re keeping your chest up, bending your knees with your butt going back, grabbing the weed and lifting with your legs—kind of like you’re Pinocchio on a string,” Mandere says.
The workout this action gives your quadriceps—the large muscles in the front of your thighs—will do your heart good.
“The quads are the biggest muscles in the body, so working your quads is a cardiovascular activity,” Mandere says.
TV and games
“Every time there’s a commercial break, you can use it as an opportunity to do exercise,” notes Mandere. Alternate the moves: Run in place during one commercial, do pushups on your couch or coffee table during the next.
On family game night, try adding exercises to the rules for what happens when a player has an advantage or setback in a board game, she suggests.
Putting on some upbeat music while you dust or vacuum can certainly make dull housework more fun. Mandere says the benefits can be even more important for your heart health.
“If you can stay on the beat, you will move a little faster, getting the heart rate up while you move to the music,” she says.
Walking the stairs
Instead of walking up and down stairs the regular way, try a few fun moves. Skip a step, jog four times on each step, run up the stairs, step from side-to-side or go up or down backwards (making sure to hold the handrail).
“Moving your body in multiple directions going up the stairs uses all the planes of motion, ‘tricks’ your muscles and improves your cardiovascular fitness as well as your overall fitness level,” Mandere says.
Keep your own level of physical strength and endurance in mind when deciding which of these or any other moves to try, and don’t try anything too strenuous without first consulting with your doctor.
Check out more February Heart Health Month fitness tips.