TAll of us who went to public schools in the 80s and 90s grew up with American Heart Association-sponsored Hoops for Heart and jump rope competitions. These events instilled in us an important lesson: that becoming active could strengthen our hearts.


Of course, heart health isn’t as simple as jumping around. There are many things that play into our heart health, such as family history and socioeconomic factors; heck, even your zip code can have a say in your long-term heart health.

However, one recommendation that cardiologists keep coming back to is to exercise more. When people hear this, they sometimes jump into what they think is a great heart-health fitness routine, only to get hurt, discouraged, or give up altogether.


Here are four of the most common mistakes that cardiologists George Fernaine, MD, MBA, section chief of cardiology at NYU Langone HospitalBrooklyn, and Sean Heffron, MD, a preventive cardiologist at the Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease at NYU Langone Health, see people do and what you should do instead.

Mistakes to avoid when practicing fitness for heart health

Mistake 1: Doing too much too soon

Most people start out too heavy and hard, but it’s best to start slow and work your way up, says Dr. Fernaine. Her recommendation is to start with just 10 minutes a day, working your way up to 150 minutes a week. (But make sure your doctors are okay first if you have any health issues.)

When you try to make a big change suddenly, it tends not to be sustainable. Implementing any lifestyle change gradually tends to work best, says Dr. Heffron. He points out that adding even 10 minutes of exercise a day can be difficult, intimidating, and hard to stick to.

Listen to your body (and mind) and start with small, manageable bites. The older we are, the more likely we are to potentially have negative side effects from exercise, says Dr. Heffron. These can be anything from minor aches and pains to injuries such as sprains and injuries are more likely when something is overused or attempted to escalate quickly, she adds.

Most importantly, don’t try to overcome any adverse symptoms, especially chest pain, dizziness, or difficulty breathing during exercise. These are all things that suggest there may be something going on with your cardiovascular system that you should talk to your doctor about [about]says Dr. Heffron.

Mistake 2: Not stretching or heating

Dr. Fernaine emphasizes the importance of stretching before and after exercise to avoid injury. While it might seem like a waste of time, those few minutes you spend warming up and stretching for a workout can help protect your body.


Stretching can be used in so many ways, and may even help reduce the risk of injury from overuse of the model, help correct muscle imbalance, and even help repair joint dysfunction, he previously told Well + Good l ‘lululemon Studio trainer Xtina Jensen.

Mistake 3: Making exercise a chore

People often choose exercises they don’t particularly like, says Dr. fernaine. If you’ve never been a runner, don’t start with that.

You don’t need to sign up for the next half marathon just because you think it’ll be good for your heart. Instead, take stock of what you really enjoy doing. Maybe you want to join a local co-ed soccer team or start a weekly hiking habit. Or maybe you need some external motivation to make the task more enjoyable: Distractions like listening to music while you work out can help pass the time, says Dr. fernaine.

Mistake 4: Seeing fitness as a separate section of your life

It’s a cliche, but take the stairs rather than the elevator ANDa way to get more exercise into your day. Implementing small movements here and there can help you reach your fitness goals.

The best thing to do every day is to be as active as possible, whenever you can. I encourage people to walk whenever they can, stand whenever they can, take the stairs whenever they can because you don’t need to exercise or be active 45 minutes to an hour at a time at the gym to benefit, she says. Dr. Heffron.

Seeing heart health fitness as a separate entity from your normal life prevents you from noticing those little windows that would allow you to get a little more exercise, whether it’s walking the dog or hosting a kitchen dance party. Going by [nothing] to anything is very beneficial to your heart health, says Dr. Heffron, and hopefully that should be something you actually find enjoyable.

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