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Live Vibrantly - February 26, 2021

Health Matters of the Heart: February is American Heart Month

By Kathie Miller

Valentine’s Day is an annual tradition we all enjoy. The perfect excuse to exchange innocent greeting cards with elementary school classmates, or enjoy a special dinner with our spouses, partners and families, this Hallmark holiday is a wonderful reminder of the affection and tenderness we share with others. Yet it is not the only focus on the heart we get to celebrate this month.

While proclamations of love can make our hearts swoon, one presidential proclamation makes our hearts beat with delight at Goodwin House. You know the one… Proclamation 3566, in which President Lyndon B. Johnson established February 1964 as the first official “American Heart Month”.

Holistic Approach to Heart Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly 655,000 Americans die from heart disease each year—that’s 1 in every 4 deaths nationwide. Heart disease is considered the number one cause of death in the United States, and our risks increase as we reach ages 65 and older. It’s no wonder we focus on heart health at Goodwin House.

Keeping our hearts healthy involves a holistic approach. That’s because many factors that range from genetics to stress management can play a role. Our approach to heart health at Goodwin House is holistic, too. We recently shared tips from Goodwin House dietitians about the important choices we can make in our diet to keep our hearts healthy. In this blog post, we focus on physical activity, with insights from one of our very own Goodwin House fitness experts, Carson Fralin.

Don’t Take It Sitting Down

We are confident that this isn’t the first time you have heard that exercise is good for you. We also think it’s likely that you have already heard that sitting is the new smoking, and spending too much time being sedentary is not good for your health. But were you aware that maintaining your fitness levels through regular exercise might not be enough to counteract extended periods of being sedentary?

“Being aerobically fit or aerobically trained does not protect you from the vascular dysfunction that comes from sitting for long periods of time,” explains Carson, who is the fitness and aquatics coordinator at Goodwin House Alexandria.

While completing graduate studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, Carson took part in research that explored the effects prolonged periods of sitting on vascular health. “We found that a three-hour period of sitting resulted in the same negative effects in individuals who were aerobically trained as those who were not aerobically trained,” he shared.

This means that even if you participate in regular exercise, you are still susceptible to the negative effects of sitting down for a prolonged period of time. So often, we focus on committing 30 or more minutes a day to our exercise routines, and we lose sight of the importance of staying more active in very basic ways throughout the day.

Get Snacking!

One of the newer trends in physical activity is the idea of “exercise snacks” – shorter periods of time engaged with moving around rather than longer sessions of physical exertion.

“While we still encourage the commitment to regular exercise,” explains Carson, “we also recommend that you create a habit of moving frequently throughout your day.” There are options for achieving this goal. For example, you might break your exercise time into to smaller segments of time – three 10-minute sessions can give you the same benefits as one 30-minute session exercise. That’s not the only way to reach the goal of being more consistently active.

Dedicated time to physical exercise is important, but so is a simple commitment to moving frequently throughout your day. This can be equally beneficial to your overall health, including your heart health. Here are just a few ideas for exercise snacks you can fit into your day:

  • Get up and walk around your apartment during TV commercial breaks
  • Stand and walk around your home while talking on the phone with loved ones
  • Clean your home
  • Do some gardening
  • Ask a friend to simply take a walk around the block
  • Walk the hallways or take the stairs for just a few minutes
  • Do not sit still for more than 90 minutes during your waking hours

“If you are currently managing diabetes, COPD or cardiovascular disease you should pay special attention to these recommendations as this sitting-induced dysfunction will exacerbate the stress those chronic diseases place on your body. All age groups should avoid a sedentary lifestyle and engage in routine exercise as well as a daily dose of active living habits,” Carson explained.

Remember that these small movements throughout the day can be incredibly beneficial, even for those of us who have the best exercise routines and habits that involve cardio fitness, stretching, strength training and maintaining balance.

Proclaim love for your own heart health and get moving!


As Corporate Director of Marketing & Communications, Kathie Miller provides strategic guidance and tactical support for all areas of Goodwin House. She writes, edits and manages The Good Life blog and newsletter. Kathie joined GHI in 2014 after nearly 15 years at NPR, where she honed her skills in brand and reputation management, content marketing and internal communications. Originally from Pennsylvania, Kathie has slowly come to realize she’s lived in Arlington for more than half her life and should call herself a Virginian. She enjoys the outdoors and brings her rescue dog, Remi, to work every day.

 

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