Get Heart-Healthy Without Joining a Gym

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You don't necessarily need to go to spin classes or get up at 5:00 a.m. for an hour-long turn on the treadmill to keep your ticker in tip-top shape.

For a healthy heart, you should be getting 30 minutes or more of moderate physical activity on most days of the week, says Joan Dorn, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences in the School of Public Health and Health Professions at the State University of New York at Buffalo, New York.

"You'd have to do more exercise than that for weight loss," Dorn says. "But this amount of exercise is great for heart health."

There's no rule that it has to be done all at once. "If you get in 10 minutes three times a day, it's pretty much equal to one 30 minute period of exercise," Dorn says.

You don't have to walk or run to get a workout, says Tom Griesel, co-author with his sister, Dian Griesel, PhD, of the weight loss and wellness book, TurboCharged. "You can get great exercise even if your job requires sitting at a desk for extended periods," he says.

Aim to get your heart rate up somewhat during exercise, says Lorraine Mackstaller, MD, associate professor of medicine and a physician who specializes in heart health and patient education at the Sarver Heart Center at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona. "You don't have to exercise hard," she says. "You just have to exercise with some degree of frequency, even if you fit in five minutes here and there."

Here are 10 smart ways to get moving, from Dorn, Mackstaller, Griesel, and Cassandra Corum, a certified strength and fitness coach in Los Angeles.

1. Park your car 10 minutes away from the office and walk to work, take a 10-minute walk at lunch, and walk back to your car at the end of the day. "And there you've done it," Dorn says. "And if you can't get out at lunch, walk up and down the stairs for 10 minutes."

2. Play Frisbee with your dog at the park.

3. Do body weight squats in place: stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, arms out in front of you. Bend your knees and bring your rear end down as if you were about to sit down in a chair. Rise to a standing position. Repeat 20 to 60 times or do as many as you can in one minute.

4. Chair exercises can be vigorous enough to get your heart rate up, says Mackstaller. And from Griesel, here's an exercise you can do while sitting at your desk: lift your legs straight out in front of you and cross them like scissors. Move them back and forth, alternating them top and bottom. Do as many as you can before you get winded.

5. While watching TV, at every commercial get up and do push-ups, lunges, and squats.

6. Stand up as often as possible. If you're on your cell phone, keep walking. Climb up the stairs of your house, do a loop around the second floor, and walk downstairs. Repeat for 10 minutes.

7. Cut your own grass and clean your own house. Not only do you save money, but you shed calories (riding on a lawnmower while you cut the grass doesn't count.)

8. Whenever you go to the supermarket, choose the farthest possible parking spot and walk into the store.

9. If you normally take the elevator to get to your office or your apartment, start taking the stairs instead. Work up to making the trip multiple times. You'll be surprised what a workout you can get just from stair climbing.

10. Walk around the mall at a brisk pace. Take a friend along, and use the time to catch up while you walk.

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