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Take Charge of Your Heart Health with Exercise

The most significant barrier to exercise is not what to do, but finding the motivation to do it. Experts recommend setting short- and long-term goals, or having a very specific plan in place. What else can you do to keep up your routine?
Focus on perceived exertion.  Heart rate can be a fairly inaccurate measure of how hard you’re working, particularly if you’re on medication for your heart. "We recommend the walk-and-talk test to tell if you’re working hard enough,” says Dalene Bott-Kitslaar, RN, MSN, F-CNP, of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Basically, you should be working hard enough (whether walking or another activity) that you can’t easily carry on a conversation – you have to stop and catch your breath while talking.

Don’t sell walking short.  Measure your daily steps by wearing a pedometer all day, and try to get your step count up to 10,000 per day. Keep bumping the number up by 1,500 steps a day until you reach the goal. Walking this amount each day can make a real difference – and you only need comfortable clothes and a good pair of shoes.


Individualize your routine.  "What works well for one doesn’t work for others,” says Bott-Kitslaar. "Pick something you enjoy. Tap dance – or ballroom dance! As long as you’re moving, your heart is benefiting.” Some women enjoy variety, picking different activities throughout the week to work different muscle groups.

Find a "personal trainer” to stay motivated.  Sometimes this can be a personal trainer at your health club, but use what you have available – Bott-Kitslaar’s "personal trainers” are her dogs, who don’t let her sit down after work without their daily walk. "Find someone or something in your life – your dog, your child, your husband or mother – to motivate you to take care of yourself,” she says.


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WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) patient advocacy organization with thousands of members nationwide, including women heart patients and their families, health care providers, advocates and consumers committed to helping women live longer, healthier lives. WomenHeart supports, educates and advocates on behalf of the nearly 48 million American women living with or at risk of heart disease. Our programs are made possible by donations, grants and corporate partnerships.

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