The Health Matters column with Heart Research UK’s Dr Helen Flaherty: Take steps to maintain a healthy heart

Over the past year, it is fair to say that plenty of us have become more sedentary due to the effects of Covid-19.

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 10:15 am
Every step counts and they can be broken down into manageable segments.

All those extra hours spent watching shows on steaming sites, with reduced travel time to work, and no gyms or sports facilities available, has meant that we haven’t always been paying attention to our hearts.

Heart Research UK has some tips to break the cycle and get people moving anyway they can:

Tracking your step count

Dr Helen Flaherty, head of health promotion at Heart Research UK.

The majority of us nowadays have technology that calculates our step count, heart rate, sleep time, stress levels and more. Using your phone/watch to count your daily steps has been shown to increase how likely we are to meet daily physical activity guidelines, and lead to more successful weight-loss.

Most of us don’t realise how few steps we are taking per day, or the significant impact we can have on our step count with just a short walk. Setting yourself a daily step goal can be a great first step towards improving your heart health.

It is recommended to try aiming for 6,000 steps per day to start with. You don’t need to achieve this all-in-one go, and it is possible to meet this goal through taking regular breaks and walking around your house. Have you considered taking a backpack and walking to the shop to do your shopping? Every step counts!

Try to avoid the ‘All or Nothing Attitude’

Have you ever thought “I will do the washing today” and then time becomes a problem so you end up thinking “I will leave it all to tomorrow then”; This is an all or nothing attitude. Plenty of us have this approach to many things. A way to avoid this is to break jobs up into parts. You may not have had time to do all of the washing, but you could have done some of it.

This can also relate to exercise and being physically active. One of the biggest barriers against physical activity is time, in general we tend to think if we can’t do a whole 30 minutes or one hour straight of exercise then there’s no point doing it at all.

However, this isn’t true!

The recommended amount of physical activity per week in the UK is 150 minutes. This can be made up however you like as long as your heart and breathing rate increase! It is suggested that we aim for 30 minutes five times per week, but that doesn’t mean you can’t break up that 30 minutes into three x 10 minutes or even six x five minutes.

The key is to aim for little and often rather than all or nothing. For example, why not try doing some calf raises whilst brushing your teeth, or some mini lunges whilst waiting for the kettle to boil?

Most of us spend a lot of time sitting, whether that be watching TV, playing video games or working from home.

Set yourself a number of times per day that you need to stand up out of your chair.

Before you walk away from the chair you could do 10 sit-to-stand exercises in a row, essentially this would be like doing 10 squats every time before you get out of your chair if you did this five times a day you would have achieved 50 squats!

Visit tinyurl.com/dbtpf9na to find out more ways to reduce your sitting time.