February, the shortest of the months, is designated as the month of love. (It’s also American Heart Health Awareness Month, National Chocolate Lovers Month and National Bird Feeding Month in the U.S.) Amid freezing temperatures, cold winds and bitter windchill factors, it can be difficult to remember to balance fitness, food and fun. Here are some ways to celebrate yourself, your relationships and your family in the month of love while still keeping your fitness and food priorities in check.
According to the American Heart Association, nearly 80 percent of heart disease cases are preventable. Awareness and being proactive are vital in preventing the disease; be mindful of your cardiovascular risk factors. Know your ABC’s: A1c (diabetes number), blood pressure, and cholesterol number. Maintain or lose extra weight by being committed to exercising for a minimum of 20 minutes or more each day. Plan to eat a heart-healthy diet that is low in saturated fat and rich in fruits and vegetables. Even moderate changes to diet and lifestyle can lower your heart disease risk factors significantly. They’ll, literally, do your heart some good.
Recent findings from the Harvard Study of Adult Development showed that the quality of relationships we have with people matter in our overall well-being and happiness. Take this month to celebrate and honor family at any opportunity you get. If you are lucky to have elderly family members and friends, spend time creating a meal together, maybe even featuring a traditional recipe passed down across generations. Ask questions of your elderly friends of how food was cooked and what methods were used to enhance taste. You may discover some secrets to avoiding the pitfalls of rushing through our cooking routines today. This interaction is a win-win, especially for children as they understand their roots and heritage.
Besides family, friends are an integral part of our social sphere. Studies have shown that adults with strong social support have a reduced risk of many significant health problems, including depression, and are likely to live a longer life than with peers with fewer social connections. Work relationships also matter. It is believed we spend one third of our lifetimes at work. Take advantage of that time by including friends and co-workers in sharing meals, taking lunch break walks, joining after-work workouts and participating in weekend outdoor activities. These practices will cumulatively enable you to develop strong relationships and help in keeping you physically fit and active.
In a number of ways, you can show your heart some love this February. (All while feeding those birds and enjoying those dark chocolates in moderation, of course.)