Tips to keep you in shape this holiday season

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Do you approach the holiday season feeling overwhelmed by what needs to get done? There’s shopping, decorating, baking, wrapping, parties … and more parties. Despite all these “to-dos,” there’s another essential thing that should top your list: exercise.

As the holiday season begins, it’s important to get the exercise you need for your physical and mental health. Although the American Heart Association recommends physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week, you can start out with something more “doable.” Try to fit in as much exercise as possible, with the realization that some exercise is better than none. A minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week is optimal. And, remember, now isn’t the time to set lofty goals for weight loss or working out, but to maintain your weight and do some form of exercise through the holidays.
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Discover the benefits of yoga

The U-M Domino's Farms Fitness Center features a top-notch yoga program

yoga blogMary Armstrong loves yoga. It’s something the 67-year-old has practiced over the years as a way of connecting with her grown daughters.

So when she experienced high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat a few years ago, Mary was happy to discover the rehabilitation program at the University of Michigan Preventive Cardiology Fitness Center at Domino’s Farms included a yoga program. It proved to be a perfect fit for her, both physically and emotionally.

“This yoga program is so different from other classes I’ve taken,” says Mary. “The instructors perform each pose slowly and help us do the poses correctly.” She says the class is challenging, but the instructors are happy to demonstrate modifications whenever necessary.

Mary believes her yoga practice has helped lower her blood pressure, which is monitored before and after each class. “I’m now in the normal range,” she says. The four weekly classes Mary fits into her schedule have also increased her strength and flexibility. Continue reading

Yoga and heart health

A healthy heart requires a combination of stress management, regular exercise, proper nutrition and sufficient sleep

yoga blogWe’ve all read studies that point to the benefits of certain actions or habits on heart health. In fact, a recent study, “Effects of Yoga in Patients with Chronic Heart Failure: A Meta-Analysis,” reveals that yoga has profound benefits for those who are suffering from cardiovascular disease. In fact, it seems that yoga and heart health go hand in hand.

But is yoga all we need for heart health? What about our diets? Our exercise habits? We need to look at the big picture to fully understand the best way to a healthy heart — and that big picture includes more than a single component. It includes regular exercise, a healthy diet, stress management and sufficient sleep.

In support of the study, Yoga promotes breathing techniques, which help promote the relaxation response and reduce or eliminate stress, a potential factor in heart disease. Other benefits of yoga include enhanced strength, balance, coordination and flexibility. Continue reading

Simple stress-reducing techniques

Find the technique that fits your lifestyle

When you’re able to identify the situations that trigger stress in your life, you can learn techniques for PhysicalTechniquesBlog1.fwdealing with those situations more effectively. If not dealt with in a healthy way, stress can lead to a weakened immune system, loss of sleep, increased heart rate, high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease.

With the right stress-reducing techniques, you’ll not only be able to manage the harmful effects of stress on your mind and body, you’ll also be saving your energy for things that are more positive and productive in your life.

Remember, controlling stress is a lifelong process. Learning what triggers your stress is an important first step, along with recognizing that some stressors cannot be controlled or changed no matter how much you worry about them. The key is to incorporate relaxation techniques for managing stress and its effects on your body. Here are some to get you started:

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Video: The relaxation response

Breathing techniques to help you in stressful situations

Deep-breathing techniques such as “circle breathing” and “counting” can help you deal with stressful situations in positive, healthy ways. In “The Relaxation Response,” first in a series of Cardiovascular Care blog videos, Kari Smith, University of Michigan exercise physiologist, demonstrates how the right techniques can help you begin to melt away your stress in a matter of minutes.

What techniques do you use to blow off steam or to manage your stress?


University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center Logo - blueThe University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is the top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit the Heart and Vascular page on