Fall into fitness: Free 12-week program to increase activity and build healthy habits

By combining regular excercise and a balanced diet, women can greatly reduce their risk for heart disease and stroke.
Between juggling work, family and other demands, it's a challenge for women to include healthy habits in a daily routine. In fact, a recent survey bears this out. Seventy-six percent of respondents in an American Heart Association survey said physical activity is important, but only 28 percent said they get the recommended amount each week.

But this fall, women can get a little boost to get in shape and eat right. The American Heart Association's Choose To MoveSM program provides simple nutrition tips and recipes to eat healthy and engage in physical activity every day.

Choose To Move is a free 12-week program that helps women increase physical activity and build healthy habits to lower their risk for heart disease and stroke. It's part of the American Heart Association's Go Red For Women movement to raise women's awareness that cardiovascular disease is their No. 1 killer and to help them take steps to prevent it.

Joan Lunden, award-winning television journalist, author and busy mother of seven children, understands the challenge and has signed up for the Choose To Move program.

"As a journalist I reported on health stories. I certainly knew what I needed to do to be more fit and lower my risk of heart disease, but I wasn't incorporating it into my life," said Lunden. "The more I learned about eating healthy and staying fit, the better my life became."

By increasing their physical activity level, women can reduce their risk for heart disease and stroke and lead a longer, healthier life. Eating a healthier diet also brings benefits. By combining regular physical activity and a balanced diet, women can greatly reduce their risk for heart disease and stroke.

Women know that physical activity is a key component of a healthy lifestyle, but our survey findings indicate that they struggle to incorporate it into their daily lives, said Rita F. Redberg, M.D., M.Sc., F.A.H.A., F.A.C.C., professor of medicine in the cardiology division at the University of California San Francisco National Center of Excellence in Women's Health, and an American Heart Association volunteer.

Choose To Move offers simple ways to get women back on track, she said. That includes materials like an easy-to-follow handbook to increase physical activity, nutrition tips and recipes, weight management tips, newsletters and relevant facts on heart disease and stroke.

Tips to make it a heart-healthy fall

Choose To Move advises maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle during the busy fall months by following these tips:

  • Plan snacks the same way you plan meals. Instead of a candy bar between all the hustle and bustle, bring a container of low-fat yogurt, a handful of roasted almonds or a homemade snack mix made with a no-salt seasoning blend, and keep these snacks around and available for you and your kids. This is a great opportunity to get the whole family into a healthy eating routine.
  • Get your spouse and kids to go on a play date with you. It's great for family togetherness, while fitting in fitness. With the leaves falling, make a game out of raking them up. Whoever rakes the most in the shortest amount of time, wins.
  • Find comfortable shoes that you can wear during regular exercise. With the weather cooling down, it's a perfect time to go for a walk during your lunch break at work or in the evenings.
  • Survey respondents said the most common barrier to adopting healthy eating habits is the need to plan ahead. Choose To Move helps eliminate barriers by offering simple nutrition tips and recipes to help participants eat healthy every day. Developed by the renowned Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas, the program is available online or by mail. The handbook is free. In addition, for a limited time, women who enroll will receive the American Heart Associations free Healthy Heart Walking CD, which features a simple walking program.

    For more heart-healthy tips, join Choose To Move by calling 1-888-MY-HEART or visiting www.americanheart.org/choosetomove.com. Choose To Move is sponsored by the Almond Board of California and the Mrs. Dash brand.

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