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Listen to Your Heart

February is American Heart Month, a month where we raise awareness that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States that is largely preventable. Heart disease claims the lives of nearly 700,000 Americans each year. 2024 is a special year as the American Heart Association celebrates its centennial anniversary of awareness. For the past 100 years, the association has encouraged the American public to “Listen to their Heart” and follow the recommended guidelines for maintaining a healthy heart.

Those Guidelines Include:

  • Controlling and Managing Blood Pressure
  • Managing Cholesterol Numbers
  • Eating Healthier
  • Stressing Less
  • Regular Doctor Visits and Preventive Care
  • Managing Blood Sugar Levels
  • Quitting Smoking


Did you know that a single session of physical activity can reduce your blood pressure for up to 24 hours? Exercise induced changes can prevent or improve all the major risk factors that contribute to heart disease, including high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and unhealthy cholesterol. Moving more can also improve mental health, which is a common but ignored contributor to cardiovascular problems. Over time exercise increases the size of the heart’s chambers and conditions our heart. This allows the heart to relax more easily and pump more efficiently as it requires less effort to send blood throughout the body. Exercise, no matter the type, helps to reduce the amount of visceral fat around our organs that is directly linked to a higher risk of heart disease.

These changes require only a small amount of extra movement on our part, only 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week and two days of strength training can increase your aerobic capacity in about 8-12 weeks. Let’s take a look at those two types of exercise in a bit more detail.


Aerobic Exercise

  • Improves circulation
  • Decreases blood pressure and heart rate
  • Improves cardiac output (how well your heart pumps)


Aerobic Exercise Ideas

  • Brisk Walk
  • Jog/ Run
  • Cycle
  • Swim
  • Playing Tennis or Pickleball


Resistance/ Strength Training

  • Reduces Fat and Boosts Metabolic Rate
  • Creates Leaner Muscle Mass
  • Increases Energy
  • Increases Bone Density
  • Balances Blood Sugar


Resistance/ Strength Ideas

  • Free Weights
  • Band Work
  • Machines
  • Bodyweight work like Squats or Pushups


Let’s take a look at those first steps in the push to get moving.

  • Make a list of ways you can move more throughout the day. Examples: parking farther away from the storetaking the stairs when possiblemaking those extra trips with your grocery bagswalk in place or plank during commercial breaks, or take a fitness class at your local YMCA.
  • Mark your activity plans on your calendar.
  • Set reminders on your phone to get up and get moving.
  • Track your activity with a phone or fitness tracker, then set goals to increase your activity each week.
  • Build a support system; ask a friend or family member to help hold you accountable or join you in your movement!


Each step is one in the right direction towards better heart health. Celebrate National Heart Month with us by joining a group fitness class or a pickup basketball game. Celebrate Valentine’s Day this year by showing your heart a little extra love!


By Anna Stech, Armbrust YMCA Health & Wellness Director

Category: Health & Wellness
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Anna Stech is the Health & Wellness Director at the Armbrust Family YMCA. She teaches several formats like HIIT, Group Fight, Barre, and Pilates. She loves teaching her strength and stretch class to our Active Older Adults group as well. Anna is also a Red Cross CPR/ AED instructor that helps to keep our staff certified to keep our members safe. Anna is passionate about serving her community and loves helping motivate people to get moving!

While you can find her at the YMCA most days she enjoys her time at home with her twin girls, Abby and Sophia and her husband, Gabe. Anna enjoys reading, spending time outside and golfing! Stop at Armbrust YMCA any time and introduce yourself. She would love to welcome you into class!