February is the month of love as we celebrate Valentine’s Day on the fourteenth. But February isn’t just a month for lovers; it’s also American Heart Month. Use the month of February to educate members on ways that they can take care of their hearts. The activity ideas below will encourage members to love their hearts and prioritize their health, throughout the month of February.
CREATE A FIT BALL – Create a fit ball to use during group exercise classes and keep exercise fun. Inflate a beach ball. Then, using a Sharpie marker, write a different movement suited for your group on each of the colored panels. Gather participants, toss the ball to one member, and where their right thumb lands when catching the ball is the exercise your group does for a minute. Continue tossing the ball to different members until you’ve completed ten minutes. Do this activity two other times during the day, five days a week, and your group will be well on their way to attaining 150 minutes of exercise a week. Examples of exercises include: walking in place, bicep curls, chair squats (stand up from a seated position, then slowly sit back down again – best done while holding onto something for balance), and seated marching.
BLOOD PRESSURE CLINIC – Offer an open house blood pressure clinic for members to pop in to receive a free screening. Reach out to a geriatric clinic or nursing/certified nursing assistance school for assistance, or ask your nursing department for help. Schedule this once during the month of February, or offer it weekly. Ask a doctor’s office or your nursing team for printed material regarding heart health to give participants who stop by the clinic.
WEAR RED DAY – The first of February is National Wear Red Day. Participate as a group this month. National Wear Red Day raises awareness about heart disease being the number one killer of women. Encourage members, staff, and volunteers to wear red today. Take a group photo and share it in your newsletter or on social media. Visit Go Red for Women (goredforwomen.org) for more information.
I HEART EXERCISE – The American Heart Association recommends that adults participate in 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. Challenge members to meet this recommended goal. Give participants a blank February calendar to keep track of their progress. When they’ve completed 30 minutes of exercise in a day, give them a heart sticker to place on that corresponding day on their calendar. Reward members who complete an entire month of 150 minutes of exercise each week with a new water bottle.
SPICE IT UP – So often salt is our go-to seasoning to flavor our food; however, a high sodium diet is unhealthy for the heart. Welcome your dining team to do a culinary presentation on how to season food without the use of salt, or invite someone from a local oil-and- vinegar or spice shop to talk to your group. Ask them to provide samples.
UNWIND & RELAX – Invite members to unwind and relax throughout the month, helping to eliminate stress and lower their blood pressure. Provide a quiet space, play relaxation or classical music, dim the lights, and set the mood with battery operated candles. If you have access to an essential oil diffuser, defuse relaxing oils, such as lavender or vanilla.
FOR THE LOVE OF THE GROUNDHOG – February 2 is Groundhog Day. Invite members to a continental breakfast while you wait for Punxsutawney Phil to emerge from his burrow. Provide a heart-healthy yogurt bar with low-fat yogurt, granola, and fresh fruit. Before the groundhog emerges, encourage members to make their own prediction…will he see his shadow or not?
CONVERSATIONAL HEARTS – Challenge members to a fun game using the Conversation Hearts candies. Purchase small boxes of the Conversation Hearts, one box per participant. Then, give participants five to ten minutes to use as many hearts in the box to create a short story. Take turns letting each participant read his or her story then vote as a group for the winning story. If the words on the hearts are too small for your members to read, cut out larger hearts and write random words on the hearts for members to use instead. Another variation is to do this as a large group activity. Create your own set of conversation hearts, give one or two hearts to each participant, and work as a group to include each word in a short story or sentence.
HEART-HEALTHY VALENTINE’S CELEBRATION – February wouldn’t be complete without celebrating Valentine’s Day. Make it a heart-healthy celebration by serving fresh strawberries and dark chocolate instead of cupcakes or cookies. Hire an entertainer to perform love ballads and invite members to dance.
HEART & SOUL REMINISCENCE – Be sure to reminisce with members about their Valentine this month. Ask how they met their Valentine, how they celebrated Valentine’s Day in years past, and what special gifts their Valentine gave them. Reminisce about the lost art of love letter writing, proposals, and other loves, such as favorite pet, season, place, or food.
CARDIAC CARE – Invite a cardiologist to educate your group about living a heart-healthy lifestyle, or take a field trip to a hospital to hear a lecture. Many hospitals provide educational sessions free to the public. Look for heart-healthy educational seminars that are appropriate for your group. Can’t find a cardiologist or lecture? Search online for free webinars that you can share with your group.
NO-SEW HEART THROW PILLOW – Create this no-sew heart pillow to help remind participants to take care of their hearts. You’ll need two colors of polar fleece, scissors, and stuffing for the pillow. All materials can be purchased at a craft store. Start by cutting the polar fleece into a 12 by 12 inch square. Place two coordinating colors of the fleece over one another and cut out a big heart. After that, draw a smaller heart inside the bigger heart, leaving two inches between the two borders. Give each participant a heart (two layers) and instruct them to cut half-inch strips up to the inner heart outline, all the way around the heart. Then, instruct participants to tie a top layer and bottom layer strip together in a double knot, all the way around the heart until it’s almost closed. Before participants reach the end, give them stuffing to place in the pillow, then instruct them to tie the remaining strips until their heart pillow is complete.
LOVE YOUR HEART TRIVIA
- How many times does a heart beat in an average lifetime: 2.5 million, 2.5 billion, or 2.5 trillion times? 2.5 billion
- How many chambers are in the heart? 4 chambers
- What implanted medical device is used to help regulate a person’s heartbeat? Pacemaker
- Heart attacks usually occur on which day of the week? Monday
- About how many gallons of blood does the human heart pump every day: 500, 1,000, or 2,000? 2,000
- What can you do with your hands to see the approximate size of your heart? Make a fist
- What instrument do doctors use to listen to the heart? Stethoscope
- Whose heart rate beats faster, men’s or women’s? Women’s, by almost eight beats per minute
- Which December holiday sees a peak of heart attacks? Christmas Day
- What type of doctor specializes in treating and preventing diseases of the heart and blood vessels? Cardiologist
LOVE YOUR HEART THOUGHT FOR THE MONTH
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart.” ~ Helen Keller
“Love Your Heart” was written by Erin McCart. Copyright 2019 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.
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