02/04/2016 01:07 EST | Updated 02/04/2017 05:12 EST

How To Train For A Healthy Heart

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February is heart month, which means there is no better time than now to focus on your heart health. It's easy to take your ticker for granted -- you go about your daily life and probably don't think much about the organ that makes it all possible. The heart pumps for you all day long, day in and day out, and it's your hardest working muscle in your body.

That's right, your heart is a muscle, and like all muscles you need to train it to ensure it remains strong and healthy. Sadly, nine in 10 Canadians over the age of 20 have at least one risk factor for heart disease. Four in 10 have three or more risk factors. This should be the number one motivator to get everyone up and moving -- I know it's mine!

Little changes can make a big difference. Make a habit of walking up and down escalators, take the stairs and stretch or perform a few chair-based exercises throughout the day. Think about how you feel when you have sat at a desk or were sedentary most of the day -- stiff, tired, sluggish and heavy. Imagine your heart sitting around getting as out of shape as your body. Your pipes stiffen, clog and weaken. This is heart disease.

Moving will renew your energy, reduce tension and stress and keep your blood pumping. Try this: move your body up to 30 minutes, five to six days a week, as little as 10 minutes at a time. This investment in exercise will significantly lower your risk for heart disease. Do cardiovascular 'heart-pumping' exercise with some resistance training (strength training) and you will meet those requirements but most importantly, you will experience a higher quality and longer life.

High Intensity Interval Training, commonly known as 'HIIT,' is a very popular training method. It's an effective way to get your heart pumping, burn calories, manage your weight and quickly get into tip top shape. If you aren't active now, check with your doctor to see if there are any limits on what you can do and start easy, gradually working up to a HIIT style of training.

Check out my HIIT sequence that incorporates four exercises performed for 30 seconds each, followed by a 30-second recovery. Repeat the sequence four times for a fast and effective 10-minute high intensity workout. You can progress these four exercises (as shown in the video) to increase the intensity and challenge of the exercise, which is what I recommend as you get fitter.

No matter your fitness level, everyone can do an exercise for 30 seconds. This is the benefit of HIIT training -- as you build your fitness level you try and complete more repetitions by increasing the speed of the move or by progressing the exercise to a more challenging variation. It's great for all levels of fitness and can be modified to be less or more intense. With HIIT there is an option for everyone.

It's choices, not chances that determine your destiny. By choice I have decided I want to be that fit, healthy wife, 'Grand-Mo', friend and a positive role model for those around me. It's up to you to make the choice, get your body moving 30 minutes, five days a week, 10 minutes at a time. Do some cardio, lift some weights, and try a HIIT style workout. No one can change your situation or risk for heart disease except you.

Throughout the month of February, GoodLife Fitness in partnership with the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, is hosting a Healthy Heart Challenge. The challenge incorporates daily cardiac stats, fitness advice, nutrition tips and inspiring stories, all in an effort to improve your heart health. Get your heart pumping and join the Healthy Heart Challenge today!

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