It’s a little-known fact: heart disease is the leading cause of death in Australian women – at three times the rate of breast cancer. The good news? There’s an easy way to cut your risk.
You can probably guess some of the main risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, carrying excess weight and eating a diet full of saturated fat and salt.
But what’s the number one cause? It may just surprise you…
The no 1 cause of heart disease is…inactivity
That’s right! The greatest single contributor to developing heart disease isn’t smoking. It’s not even obesity. It’s a lack of exercise.
Julie Anne Mitchell from the National Heart Foundation says: “If exercise came in the form of a pill, it would be the greatest breakthrough in medical history. It helps to lower blood pressure, keeps bones strong and promotes good brain function.”
Regular physical activity is not only important for your weight, it’s also vitally important for your heart, helping to keep it healthy and manage other heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure.
This doesn’t mean spending hours on the treadmill each day! Simply aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking, on all or most days.
Also read: Easy Ways to Workout at Home
Easy ways to get active
- Be physically active for at least 30 minutes a day on most, if not all, days of the week.
- Don’t forget that incidental exercise adds up, like walking to the supermarket instead of driving, or taking the stairs instead of the lift.
- Talking on the telephone? Instead of sitting down, walk around while you chat. If you’re on your mobile, a brisk walk around the block or local park.
- Do a yoga, pilates, dance or Zumba class at least once a week.
- Use your ad breaks! There’s at least eight minutes of ads per 30 minutes of television watched, so spend that time doing star jumps, going up and down your stairs or dancing with the kids. Just get moving.
- Take a five minute stretching break instead of a coffee break at work
- Take the kids to the park on the weekend
- Go for a bush walk with friends instead of the BBQ (have a BBQ in the park after instead)
- Get out in the garden. Spend some time each week planting, watering and tending to your garden. Mow the lawn! It will work up a sweat.
- Be more active in the workplace – walk to the printer, instead of sending an email walk to the person’s desk, stand up rather than sit when answering the phone, and go on walking meetings instead of being stuck in the office.
- Park further away. Choose the furtherest car space in the carpark, or better still, leave the car at home and walk to the shops.
- Join your work colleagues for a lunchtime walk, swim or sports game once a week.
Make exercise fun to prevent heart disease
Physical activity shouldn’t be something you dread! The key is to find ways to make it fun. Being active with others will help keep you entertained, inspired and out there. Here’s how to get the gang involved:
- Lock in a weekend walk. If you like to walk (and gossip) with your friends, turn it into a fixed appointment in your weekend calendar.
- Find an exercise buddy. Get your partner or a friend to commit to an exercise class, activity or hitting the gym. Make it a regular day or days and don’t let each other slack off.
- Join a structured program. The 12 Week Body Transformation has weekly Exercise Plans for everyone from absolute beginners through to those with more experience. Our Move Program is perfect for people who haven’t exercised for a long while, or for total newbies. It’s gentle, low-impact and fun!
- Get your family involved. Instead of watching a movie with the kids on the weekend, head to the park to throw a frisbee or play with your dog. Choose a couple of nights a week to turn the TV off and go for a family walk around the neighbourhood after dinner.
- Ride your bike to work. If your workmates live nearby, ride to work with them. Make it a regular day or days and stick to it, rain, hail or shine. Imagine how good you’ll feel arriving at work knowing that you’ve done your 30 minutes of activity for the day!
Try some of these ideas (or some of your own) until you find activities you enjoy and that suit your lifestyle. Remember, make exercise fun and you’re far more likely to stick with it.