February is National Heart Month, which makes sense when you think about the fact that it contains Valentine’s Day and “Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast” day. (Come on, who doesn’t love both those things?). However, we should also be concentrating on our physical heart, not just the emotional one. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. The American Heart Association says there are five major risk factors for cardiovascular disease and one of the most prevalent is a sedentary lifestyle.
With Valentine’s Day approaching, many of you are calling up your favorite restaurant and making romantic dinner plans or rushing out to buy flowers and chocolate. Instead of going for the same old staples, try something different and make your Valentine’s Day into an active date night! It’s easy, fun, and can mean great things for your heart health.
The benefits of yoga are numerous, but when you share this relaxing activity with a partner, those benefits multiply. They even have a whole form of yoga called partner-yoga, which is specifically designed to improve self-awareness and keep you in touch with your partner’s wants and needs. In terms of your heart, yoga can “help lower blood pressure, increase lung capacity, improve respiratory function and heart rate, boost circulation, and tone muscles.” (https://goo.gl/zyzQTD) Who knew that a relaxing workout with your loved one could do so much for your health?
Ladies, there is nothing more attractive than a partner who can shake it on the dance floor (Okay, well maybe a few things, but it’s still a nice talent to have). Skip the fancy dinner and head out to one of the numerous dancing spots in the area. Places like the Emerald City Ballroom offer classes every weekend and are also hosting a semi-formal dance on Valentine’s night. Dancing is also a great way to improve communication and trust within your relationship, not to mention igniting passion during those heart-pounding tangos. Now get dolled up and go burn some calories!
Make it a group date and bring everyone over for a home cooked, heart-healthy meal. Afterward, break out the games. Active things like twister or Wii games are a great way to get in some extra calorie burning while having fun. And speaking of having fun, a study by the University of Maryland Medical Center back in 2000 made some interesting discoveries concerning laughter and heart disease. Laughter, such as you might find during a riveting game of charades, can actually reduce your chance of a heart attack. “We don’t know yet why laughing protects the heart, but we know that mental stress is associated with impairment of the endothelium, the protective barrier lining our blood vessels,” says Dr. Miller, an associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “This can cause a series of inflammatory reactions that lead to fat and cholesterol build-up in the coronary arteries and ultimately lead to a heart attack.” (http://umm.edu/news-and-events/news-releases/2000/laughter-is-good-for-your-heart-according-to-a-new-ummc-study). So don’t hold back. Laugh to your heart’s content during your active game night.
If the idea of staying in for a game night on Valentine’s Day doesn’t excite you, there are plenty more games to be had out in the city. Bowling is another great date night activity that’s good for your heart health. With a plethora of bowling alleys across central Ohio, all of which are well heated against the cold outside, you are almost sure to get a lane on Valentine’s Day.
Believe it or not, you can work off calories at the bar! Many venues provide entertainment such as shuffleboard, billiards, darts, and corn hole. All of these games keep you moving while you sip your chardonnay. These minimally exertive games will keep you looking calm and fresh all night so your date or your friends might not even realize the good you are doing for your heart. In fact, 60 minutes of corn hole playing can burn up to 180 calories and even more if rigorous victory dancing is involved. 60 minutes of billiards can burn 160 calories (though victory dancing with the pool cue in hand is discouraged during this one).
Lots of people love to give gifts on Valentine’s Day, but try switching it up and taking your date shopping for their own present. Not only are you guaranteed to pick out something they like, but you are also doing your heart some good in the process. Aerobic exercises like walking don’t have to mean boring hours on a treadmill. Strutting your stuff through the mall is simple, social, and free (if you are only window shopping). Walking is the easiest heart-friendly exercise to stick with because you have to do it every day to some extent anyway. Park your car far away from the mall and you just added more easy exercise. Take the staircase instead of the escalator and you have even more activity. Shopping may just be the perfect Valentine’s Day date activity for you and your loved one or friends. Just be careful about where you go to shop or window-shop. What started as a healthy activity for your heart may end up being detrimental to your wallet.
Every step you take brings you closer to a healthier heart. So skip the fancy dinner and box of chocolates and try a fun alternative date. Don’t have a date for Valentine’s Day? No problem. All of the activities listed above are also perfect to do with your friends or even by yourself.