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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.

Monday
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.

Tuesday
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.

Wednesday
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.

Thursday
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.

Friday
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.

Saturday
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.

Sunday
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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