February is Heart Month and it should remind and encourage us all to start good habits to keep our heart in top condition.

Heart disease is a leading cause of death both internationally and in Malaysia. But there is some good news.

You just need 150 active minutes a week (that’s just over 20 minutes a day) to boost heart health by lowering your blood pressure, increasing your levels of good cholesterol, and keeping weight under control, not to mention the many other added benefits that come with regular exercise. The British Heart Foundation (BHF) also add that even regular walking can benefit your heart and overall health, and it’s so easy to do.

Here are some expert advice from the AHA and BHF on how everyone can get active and incorporate some daily movement into their lives for improved heart health.

Start small

The recommended 150 minutes of physical activity a week might seem like a lot, but don’t worry. Breaking it down into ten-minute sessions throughout the day and building it up from there makes it easier to get started. And if you don’t want to worry about the numbers, then just aim to move more – it will help you get active without even realising it.

Try walking

Walking is one of the best ways to get more active and achieve your goals – just 30 minutes of walking throughout the day will help to keep your heart healthy and strengthen your muscles. It’s also easy to incorporate into your daily life – you can do it anywhere, at any time and either alone or with friends.

Give it time

It can take a while for a new behaviour to become a habit, so give yourself time to get into a regular routine. And if you do happen to miss a day don’t worry, it happens! Just make sure you start again as soon as you can, don’t get discouraged, and don’t give up!

Be realistic about your goals

You don’t have to train for a marathon to improve your heart health. Just set yourself realistic goals that are personal to you, and achievable. For example, set a goal to learn how to swim, or walk to work three times a week.

Make exercise part of your day

If you plan in some time to do some physical activity that fits in with your schedule then you are more likely to stick to your plan, and it doesn’t mean you have to give up something else, like time with family and friends. Get active together as a family so everyone can benefit, or join up for a class with a friend.

Regular exercise can help keep your heart healthy. Photo: AFP

Time to get out there and do what’s best to improve your heart health. Photo: AFP

Keep moving

Even if you don’t set aside the time for a specific workout, everyday activities also count so look out for opportunities to be active during the day. Use the stairs instead of the escalators, walk to the local shop rather than taking the car and do some stretches when watching TV. It all adds up!

You don’t have to go it alone

Involve friends and family to make activities more fun, sociable and enjoyable. Go jogging with a friend and support and motivate each other, take the children swimming or join an exercise class.

Make sure you get plenty of variety

There are so many ways to get moving and stay active, and by varying your activities you are less likely to get bored and lose interest.

Keep an eye on your progress

You can use a pedometer to count the number of steps you walk each day, or a fitness tracker or smartphone app to monitor a variety of other activities and see how far you’ve progressed.

Reward yourself

Recognise when you achieve your goals and reward yourself for your hard work! Think of things that you could treat yourself with, such as a copy of your favourite magazine, a new pair of trainers or a massage. – AFP Relaxnews