In my line of work, most clients come to me because they want to look better. Big arms and nice quads are awesome goals, but I always try to emphasize that there are other fitness issues that also require attention. Regular checkups, effective stress management, and a heart healthy lifestyle are vital to a long healthy life as well as having a great physique.

With the awareness that Valentine’s Day is near, I’d like to look at that most important of muscles- the human heart and how you can keep it happy and healthy for you and those you love for years to come!

Make regular exercise a part of your daily routine. Doing aerobic exercise for your cardiovascular system two to three times per week for 30 minutes is a great place to start. Weight training is also essential for maintaining lean muscle, flexibility and overall physical strength. Hiking, swimming, bowling, and cycling, are all ways to build cardiovascular health as well as quality muscle. If all this sounds too overwhelming, then take baby-steps. Use the stairs at work, make time to stretch and breathe between appointments, walk the dog after dinner.

Do not skip regular physical checkups. Find a physician who has the time to talk with you and explain things clearly. Keep in mind certain vital statistics like your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, body fat percentage, BMI and BMR. Knowledge is power.

Make nutrition a daily project. Begin the day with a substantial breakfast of whole grains, fruits, quality protein and low-fat dairy. Eat regularly throughout the day, low-salt, smaller meals and snacks every two hours to keep up your strength and prevent your body from storing fat. Cut your fat intake to less than 30% of your daily caloric intake. Rather than coffee and soda, remember to drink more water. Drinking green or black tea promotes arterial health and combats pesky free radicals that age you. Remember that smoking will kill you. Too much booze, (except for a daily glass of red wine) means extra, empty calories that will be stored as fat around your middle.

You’ll never eliminate stress from your life, so learn to deal with it in healthy fun ways like adding a sport or hobby to your agenda! Keep positive, supportive people around you. Practicing Yoga will make you more flexible and clear your mind of noisy clutter. The same effects can be obtained by doing guided meditation, listening to music, or sharing quality time with friends or pets. Volunteer your time at a favorite charity. Adopt a pet, they are great companions and help lower blood pressure. You see, there are a million ways you can calm your spirit and take care of that precious muscle called your heart.