Heart-Smart Workout: Get Fit

No heart-healthy regimen would be complete without a cardio component. How much cardio you do, though, depends on your goal, says Robyn Stuhr, M.A., exercise physiologist and executive vice president of the American Council on Exercise.

It doesn't take Iron Man training to improve your health and lower your blood pressure -- just 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days, according to the American Heart Association. If this seems daunting, split it into two 15-minute sessions or three 10-minute sessions throughout the day. "Though ideally you want to do more rather than less cardio," says Stuhr, "even minimal amounts of activity can make a difference." Stick to our basic plan, or "Ramp Up" for greater weight loss and even more protection against heart-related problems.

To Start
Walk 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes after work or in the evening.

Ramp Up
Do two to four intervals of 15 jumping jacks after each walk.

To Start
Do five sets of jumping rope, each for 30 to 60 seconds, walking around in between to catch your breath. (Gradually increase the length of time you jump rope as you get stronger.) Follow with a brisk 10- to 20-minute walk.

Ramp Up
Do five to seven push-ups (on your knees is fine) before each set of jumping rope. If you want to make jumping rope easier on your knees, try moving forward as you do it.

To Start
Take a 20- to 30-minute walk with a friend at lunchtime or in the afternoon. Go even if you feel like you're dragging and just maintain a moderate pace.

Ramp Up
Turn on the music after dinner and dance for 20 minutes straight.

To Start
Do three to five jump rope intervals, followed by a brisk 20-minute walk.

Ramp Up
Jog for 10 minutes. You can break it up into two five-minute spurts, or intervals of one to two minutes each as you walk.

To Start
Do 20 to 30 minutes on the stationary bike or elliptical machine. Even better: Take your bike outside for a spin.

Ramp Up
Try circuit training: Do basic weight lifting with 2- or 3-pound weights (whichever feels challenging after 15 reps) and jog or do more aerobic movement between sets.

To Start
Get your errands done on foot today, making sure the total travel time adds up to at least 30 minutes.

Ramp Up
Complete a serious winter chore today: shovel snow, clean out the gutters, declutter the garage, or reorganize the basement.

To Start

Go for a 45- to 60-minute walk.

Ramp Up
Intersperse high-speed intervals with your regular pace. Walk one block fast, then two blocks at a "recovery pace." If you're on a treadmill (and don't like to jog), intensify your walk by increasing the incline for a few minutes.

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Comments (6)

  • Macpa 25 Nov, 2010

    You can exercise in your bed, sitting in a chair. Can use a Lifecycle machine (compact version looks like peddle system of bike with hidden wheel base/resistance level too/electric powered option also. Improved my elderly mom's circulation, upper

  • karma1965 18 Apr, 2010

    for those with delicate joints, do a low impact version of jumping jacks...feet together, right foot out to the right, back to center, left foot to the left, back to center, raise your arms over your head with each step...

  • MaryFinkel 18 Jun, 2008

    I think the ideas are great!! They keep you interested in exercising instead of just walking or doing one type of exercise all week. And they are small enough intervals so it makes you feel like you can actually accomplish them. I appreciate the "ramp up" parts too! Thanks, keep the great ideas coming!!!

  • whit5 16 Jun, 2008

    Yes not everyone is able to excerise like that what about people with bad backs, spinal fusion here.

  • Newsysuzie 5 Feb, 2008

    PLEASE do a series for those of us with bad knees! Those jumping jacks would put me in bed for a week!

  • RedDogMama 5 Feb, 2008

    How about a series that works for those who have bad knees (osteoarthritis). There is no way I can jump, so jumping jacks or jump rope are out of the question.

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