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Ten Tips for a Healthier Heart

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"To get heart-healthy benefits, you need to get your heart rate up." Jennifer Mieres, M.D., American Heart Association — Alison Bank/Getty Images

1. Don’t let age discourage you from reaching your physical and fitness potential. Check with your doctor, make a plan and take a gradual approach to implementing it.

2. Do aerobic exercise 30 minutes a day, five days a week. This means increasing your heart rate.

3. Even moderate-intensity exercise—such as brisk walking, light jogging, swimming, Pilates and yoga—is good.

4. If you don’t have 30 minutes to spare, exercising in short bouts of at least 10 minutes, three times a day, can also be beneficial—as long as you get your heart rate up.

5. If you do “vigorous-intensity” aerobics—running, fast walking, bicycling, tennis, an exercise class—then 20 minutes a day, three days a week, is acceptable.

6. Adults 65 and older (or those over 50 with chronic conditions or limited mobility) need the same amount of exercise as younger people, but the activity can be less intense.

7. Strength training complements aerobic training and can help older adults prevent age-related bone and muscle-mass loss. Twice a week, perform at least one strength-training set targeted to the body’s major muscle groups. One set equals eight to 10 separate exercises, each repeated 10 to 15 times.

8. Start strength training slowly, lifting perhaps five pounds for five repetitions. Build up progressively to heavier weights and 10 to 15 repetitions.

9. Do balance exercises to prevent falls and injuries.

10. Flexibility is important, too. Ten minutes of stretching twice a week, with each stretch held for 10 to 30 seconds, is recommende

Most sports medicine professionals also suggest warming up before stretching and exercising (for instance, swimming slow laps, then picking up the pace) and cooling down afterward.

Source: “Physical Activity and Public Health in Older Adults: Recommendation From the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association." Circulation 2007, online Aug. 1, 2007.

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