February: The month of heart health. You know staying fit physically and mentally is good for your heart. But when you live with chronic pain, it can be difficult to follow all the advice, especially if faced with limitations.
Our 14-day challenge is designed to help you make small, daily changes that lead to improved heart health – by reducing stress, finding the right exercise for you, and eating anti-inflammatory foods – promoting healthy living for people in pain. Are you ready to get started?
Here’s your daily challenge for the rest of the month (and be sure to check out our giveaway at the end of the article!):
February 15: Take a walk. Go outside, if you can, where you can connect with nature. Bring along someone to talk to or your favorite music. Walk as long as you feel comfortable, even if it’s ten minutes. Consider taking a warm shower before you exercise. Heat can relax your joints and muscles and relieve any pain you might have before you begin. Also, be sure to wear supportive shoes that provide shock absorption and stability.
February 16: Make fish for dinner. The omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, mackerel, trout and tuna incorporate polyunsaturated fats into your diet. Known to help with inflammation is ideal for overall good health. Plus, a survey of arthritis patients found that daily fish oil supplements reduced pain symptoms in 60% of the patients.
February 17: Go to bed early. To wind down take a warm bath, enjoy an herbal tea or read. Make sure you unplug. According to the American Heart Association, studies have found that most people need six to eight hours of sleep each day and that too little or too much can increase the risk of cardiovascular problems.
February 18: Snack on nuts. Under stress, people sometimes overindulge, or turn to sweets because it’s emotionally soothing. While emotional eating is never a good idea, at least reach for a healthy choice like walnuts, almonds and pecans that are full of good fat. Walnuts, especially, not only benefit your heart but have pain relief perks as a reducer of joint pain. Keep a small bag of nuts in your purse, desk or bedside for convenience.
February 19: Lunch with a friend. Spend quality time with someone who understands and supports you. Good relationships with friends and loved ones are important to any healthy lifestyle. It will relieve your stress, make you feel good, and allow you to feel connected. If you can’t go out, have your friend come to you.
February 20: Eat five different fruits and vegetables. Try at least one you’ve never had or don’t eat often to add variety to your diet. Eating a diet of fresh foods, devoid of preservatives and additives, may ease pain symptoms associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Whenever possible, buy organic. If you have joint pain, avoid tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants—believed to aggravate arthritis and pain in some people.
February 21: Start your day with gratitude. Before you get out of bed, take time to think of what you are grateful for and what brings meaning to your life. Then, set your mind with intention to have a positive day. For ideas to cultivate gratitude read our article.
February 22: Stretch. Spend time gently moving your body to get rid of tension. Stretch on your own to relaxing music or consider following along with a yoga or Tai Chi video. Intentional slow movements can be effective exercise and stress relief. Plus, it’s gentler on a body with a chronic pain condition than high-impact activities like jogging. Here’s a 4-minute daily Qigong exercise to try:
February 23: Practice relaxation exercises. If you’re feeling anxious, try a muscle relaxation technique, in which you tense up a particular muscle group – such as the neck back or shoulders – and slowly count to ten. Then relax that same muscle group for a slow count of ten. Want to practice breathing techniques? Here are three exercises from Dr. Weil.
February 24: Add spice to your dinner. Ginger or curry spices can have an anti-inflammatory effect on your diet. If Moroccan chicken stew or Indian beef patties sound good, try these spicy, healthy recipe ideas.
February 25: Commit to eliminating one bad habit. Whether it’s smoking, not getting enough sleep, too much sugar or avoiding regular exercise, create a plan to make a change for the better.
February 26: Get a massage. Schedule a professional massage or ask a loved one to provide a massage at home. Choose a massage therapist that specializes in helping people in pain and make sure to tell him or her exactly which areas you want to focus on and how much pressure is comfortable for you. Because there’s a release of serotonin, the body’s natural production of anti-pain chemicals, massages can reduce pain. Additionally, if lack of deep sleep is an issue, massage therapy is effective at increasing restorative sleep.
February 27: Swim, cycle or strength train. Exercising with pain can be a challenge, but it is important. If you have a chronic condition, regular exercise can help you manage symptoms and improve your health. Find an exercise that works for you. Before starting a new exercise routine, it’s important to talk with your doctor. For some ideas, here are 10 Exercises for People in Pain.
February 28: Drink green tea. It has less than half the caffeine of coffee and contains healthy antioxidants, as well as theanine, an amino acid that has a calming and soothing effect on the nervous system. It will also keep you hydrated as well as water.
Click here to print the 14-day challenge.
Ready, set, go!
Heart Health Challenge Giveaway!
Participation is EASY. Just take a photo or video of yourself doing one of the heart health challenge activities and post it to our Facebook page. Participants will be entered into a drawing for a grand prize gift basket including:
– $50 Amazon gift card
– Three books, including one on healthy eating
– One-hour Massage Envy gift card
– Fresh Market gift card
The runner up will receive a one-hour Massage Envy gift card. Winners will be announced on Facebook on March 1!