February is American Heart Month. Although this month shines a spotlight on the importance of a healthy heart, we cannot forget to make it a priority every day of the year! Heart disease is currently the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. But wait – there is good news – we can change this! Simple, daily efforts to make healthy life choices, such as taking time to exercise and relax, can help prevent this disease.

Here at The Center, we look forward to this month of awareness and the opportunity to focus on our partnership with XC Oregon and the annual Tour for the Heart event. This fun, family experience is always a huge success, bringing in people of all ages to ski and snowshoe around the course at Mt. Bachelor’s Nordic Center. This 5k XC ski or snowshoe helps to get everyone outside and active, and in doing so, raises awareness and funding for the fight against women’s heart disease.

Small things like eating foods with lower sodium or choosing to pack your lunch instead of going out to eat can make a big difference. Take a moment to relax with some light exercise, reading, or any activity that gives your body and mind a rest. Of course, a daily dose of vigorous exercise will not hurt… well, at least not in a bad way! Take the dog for a walk or head to the gym for a fun group class to work up a sweat and strengthen your overall body. It all helps! Here are some simple ideas from the American Heart Association to help make exercise part of your daily routine for the long haul: 
Dress for Success!

  • Wear Comfortable, properly fitted sneakers or flat shoes with laces.
  • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing appropriate for the weather and the activity.

Make the time!

  • Start slowly. Gradually build up to at least 30 minutes of activity on most or all days of the week (or whatever your doctor recommends).
  • Exercise at the same time of day so it becomes a regular part of your lifestyle. For example, you might walk every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from noon to 12:30 p.m.
  • Find a convenient time and place to do activities. Try to make it a habit, but be flexible. If you miss an exercise opportunity, work activity into your day another way.

Keep reasonable expectations of yourself.

  • If you have a high risk of coronary heart disease or some other chronic health problem, check with your healthcare provider before beginning a physical activity program.
  • Look for chances to be more active during the day. Walk the mall before shopping, take the stairs instead of the escalator/elevator, or while watching TV or sitting, take 10–15 minute breaks to walk or do some other activity.
  • Don’t get discouraged if you stop for a while. Get started again gradually and work up to your old pace.
  • Don’t exercise too vigorously right after meals when it’s very hot or humid, or when you just don’t feel up to it.

Make it fun!

  • Choose activities that are fun, not exhausting. Add variety. Develop a repertoire of several activities that you can enjoy. That way, exercise will never seem boring or routine.
  • Ask family and friends to join you — you may be more likely to stick with it if you have company. Or join an exercise group, health club, or community center. Many churches and senior centers offer exercise programs too. (Remember to get your doctor’s permission first.)
  • Use variety to keep your interest up. Walk one day, swim the next, and then go for a bike ride on the weekend.
  • Use music or audio books to keep you entertained.

Track and celebrate your success!

  • Note your activities on a calendar or in a logbook. Write down the distance or length of time of your activity and how you feel after each session.
  • Keep a record of your activities. Reward yourself at special milestones with non-food items, like a small gift or shopping trip for yourself. Nothing motivates like success!