10 Minutes to a Healthy Heart

Heart disease isn’t just an old-age problem. It often begins in your youth and takes a lifetime to develop. Fortunately, you can jumpstart your heart health at any age. Check out Lifescript's 10-Minute Heart Circuit program… You’ve heard it before: Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the U.S. But women often gloss over this fact because, after all, isn’t it typically a man’s disease? The reality? Heart disease kills more women than men each year. And if you’ve been exercising the remote more than your abs at the gym, your risk is double that of women who make fitness a priority, says the American Heart Association (AHA). “Women have to be active to protect their hearts,” says Miriam Nelson, Ph.D., director of the John Hancock Center for Physical Activity and Nutrition at Tufts University, co-author of Strong Women, Strong Hearts (Putnam Adult) and expert at BeWell.com. Her advice? Lace up your gym shoes and get that heart rate going. Along with a heart-smart diet, exercise helps keep your stress, blood pressure, cholesterol and weight under control – all important factors for a healthy heart. “Aerobic fitness keeps the entire cardiovascular system healthy,” Nelson says. But you don’t have to go from couch potato to marathon runner to get a healthy heart boost. All you really need is 10 minutes. Three 10-minute bouts of exercise a day improve cardiorespiratory fitness as much as one 30-minute session, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Report. You need 30 minutes of exercise five or more days a week for a healthy heart. What kind of exercise is best for a healthy heart? Most experts first suggest cardio. “Any activity that increases heart rate and breathing rate – like walking, jogging, running, cycling, swimming, hiking, etc. – is good for the heart,” Nelson says. But weight lifting is also highly recommended. “Strength training helps the heart too,” Nelson says, “but it’s best when done in combination with aerobic exercise.” And that’s where the “super circuit” comes in. A typical strength circuit involves a series of resistance exercises, but the super circuit adds short intervals of heart-pumping cardio between each station. Or you can increase the time spent on the cardio, and use the resistance workout as the interval. Lifescript’s 10-Minute Healthy Heart Circuit is designed to increase your heart rate and keep it up. It also burns the maximum calories to help you achieve and maintain a heart-healthy weight. Before we begin, a reminder: If you’re a beginner, “start slow, be consistent and progress regularly,” Nelson says. Don’t push yourself too hard – you’re trying to protect and strengthen your heart, not overload it. Should you worry about having a heart attack mid-circuit? It's rare during exercise, Nelson says. “But if you do experience symptoms – such as dizziness or pain or tightness in the chest, jaw or shoulder – stop exercising immediately and seek medical help,” she advises. If you have a medical condition – especially relating to the heart – or take prescription medications, get your doctor’s approval before you begin any new exercise routine. Lifescript’s 10-Minute Healthy Heart Circuit There are four main elements to this circuit: a two-minute warm-up, one-minute cardio exercises followed by 30-second strength intervals, and, finally, a cool down. If you feel the need to warm up or cool down longer, make time for it. Each station is timed by minutes rather than repetitions. This sets the pace, so you’re done in 10 minutes and can choose your own intensity. For a low-intensity workout, perform fewer repetitions at each station. For a high-intensity workout, perform as many repetitions as you can in the time allotted. We’ve also included an advanced modification for each exercise. It will burn more calories, but requires a higher fitness and skill level. Once you conquer the healthy heart 10-minute circuit, work your way up to three circuits for a total of 30 minutes a day. Do this workout five days a week, and your ticker will be in tip-top shape. Ready to begin? Set your watch for alternating one-minute, 30-second intervals, or just keep an eye on the clock. Minutes 0-2: Warm-Up Walk for two minutes, pumping your arms to help move blood through your body. Minutes 2-3: High Knees Walk in place for one minute, lifting your knees toward your chest as high as you can with each step. Alternate legs. Advanced: Jog in place with high knees. Minutes 3-3:30: Monster Walk This exercise calls for an elastic resistance band (it looks like a large rubber band). Tie the band just above the ankles to really give your outer thighs (abductors) a workout. But you can still do this exercise without the band. 1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and the ankle band securely around your shins, just above the ankles. 2. Step diagonally forward and out to the right with your right foot. 3. Bring your left foot to meet your right foot. 4. Step diagonally forward and out to the left with your left foot. 5. Bring your right foot to meet your left foot. 6. Repeat for 30 seconds. Advanced: Hold a 5-pound dumbbell in each hand, thumbs pointing toward the ceiling. With elbows bent and firmly pressed to your sides, perform a triceps press to the rear with each step you take. Minutes 3:30-4:30: Jumping Jacks Perform jumping jacks for one minute. Advanced: Hold 5-pound dumbbells in each hand as you perform each jumping jack. Minutes 4:30-5: Plyometric Squat This explosive movement works all the major muscles of your legs, thighs and butt, and keeps your heart rate soaring. 1. Stand with feet hip-width apart and place your hands behind your head in a “prisoner” position. 2. Squat, keeping your weight centered over your heels. 3. From the squat position, jump straight up and land gently back in the squat position. Again, keep your weight centered over your heels. 4. Return to standing position. 5. Repeat for 30 seconds. Advanced: Hold a 10-pound medicine ball in front of your chest with both hands. As you squat, press the ball overhead. Return the ball to chest-height before jumping. For more plyometric exercises, click here. Minutes 5-6: Jump Rope Jump rope for one minute. (If you don’t have a jump rope, simply mimic the hand motions while you jump.) Advanced: Use a weighted jump rope. Minutes 6-6:30: Squat Thrusts This exercise takes coordination and may require a bit of practice. If you’re uncomfortable with the jump portion of the exercise, move one leg back, then forward, at a time. 1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. 2. Squat, placing your hands on the ground in front (and slightly outside) of each foot. 3. Keeping your hands firmly planted, jump your feet back until you are in plank (push-up) position. 4. Return to the squat position by jumping your feet forward again. 5. Return to standing. 6. Repeat for 30 seconds. Advanced: Perform a push-up when in plank position. Minutes 6:30-7:30: Step-Ups Step onto a step, bench or curb and then back down, repeating for one minute. Advanced: Jog or sprint up stairs and back down again for one minute. Minutes 7:30-8: Forward Walking Lunges To perform this exercise in a small area, return to standing by stepping back to your starting position. In a larger area, you can “walk” across the room by stepping forward after each lunge 1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. 2. Step forward with your right foot. 3. Bending both knees, squat until your right knee is at a 90-degree angle and your left knee is almost touching the ground behind you. 4. Return to standing. 5. Repeat, leading with the left leg. Alternate legs for 30 seconds. Advanced: Hold a 5-pound dumbbell in each hand and perform a biceps curl with each lunge. Minutes 8-9: Kickbacks While walking in place, kick the heel of your right foot up and back toward your right glute, then your left heel toward your left glute. You should feel this in your hamstrings (the back of your upper legs). Alternate kicks for one minute. Advanced: Jog in place while performing kickbacks. Minutes 9-10: Cool-Down Walk for one minute, or until your heart and breathing rates normalize. You’re done! Grab some water, a towel to mop up all that sweat, and slap a grin on your face. You’re 10 minutes closer to a fitter, healthier, happier you!