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Get moving: Easy steps to get active and improve your heart health

One of the best ways to keep your heart healthy is through regular exercise. Even simple, regular activity can strengthen your hear muscles, lower your blood pressure and improve your outlook and mood. In addition, regular exercise can prevent falls and fractures by slowing the loss if bone mass (osteoporosis) and control your diabetes or reduce your risk of developing this disease.

The first step to improving heart health is to schedule a visit with your health care provider — especially if you haven’t been exercising regularly. Once you get the go-ahead, there are several different ways to add exercise into your daily routine — even during the colder months that are right around the corner.

First and foremost, choose activities that you enjoy, like walking, swimming, riding an exercise bike, doing light stretching or practicing yoga. Exercising with a friend can help keep you motivated and supported. You may also want to consider joining a group exercise program at the YMCA, a senior center or community center. Those can also be great locations for walking or swimming indoors during the winter or inclement weather.

Even minor changes to your daily activities, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or walking to the mailbox, count as heart-healthy exercise.

Tips to keep in mind:

▪ Start out slowly, with the goal of doing some form of light exercise one to two times a week for about 5-10 minutes at a time. If you haven’t been active in a while, build up your exercise program little by little. When you feel comfortable, add a few minutes to each exercise session, but make sure to pace yourself. Listen to your body.

▪ Exercise should never hurt. Stop exercising and call 911 immediately if you experience chest pain or discomfort that doesn’t go away; pain that may be in the chest, neck, jaw, shoulders, arms or back; sudden discomfort or pain that does not ease with rest; pain that may feel like burning, squeezing, heaviness, tightness or pressure; shortness of breath or difficulty breathing; nausea, indigestion or vomiting; excessive sweating; extreme fatigue; or dizziness or lightheadedness.

▪ Wear socks and sturdy shoes to maintain your balance while exercising.

▪ Stop and rest whenever you feel short of breath.

▪ Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise.

▪ Don’t push yourself on days when you don’t feel well.

It’s also important to talk with your provider about your risk of heart disease and what you can do to make your heart healthier.

Kip Peeler, PA-C, is a provider with Mount Nittany Physician Group Cardiology.