Spread the Love with Some Hearty Advice This Valentine’s Day


By Cassie Pais, Development Officer, National Recreation and Park Association

As the month of romance and Valentine’s Day, it is only fitting that February is American Heart Month. But it is not all violets and roses when it comes to America’s health. Both heart disease and depression rates are on the rise in America, making Valentine’s Day the perfect occasion to focus on compassionate approaches to patient care and chronic condition self-management.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women – almost one in every four deaths in the United States is caused by heart disease. According to doctors at John Hopkins Hospital, heart disease is increasingly associated with another disabling disease – depression. The two go hand-in-hand; some individuals with no history of depression develop depression following a heart condition, and some individuals with no history of heart complications develop a heart condition after becoming depressed. Depression can severely hinder an individual’s recovery following a heart attack, and can leave families struggling to cope or commit to healthy lifestyle interventions.

Your patients and clients know the risk factors for heart disease such as diet, smoking, and lack of physical activity, and they likely recognize that these risk factors are also associated with depression. Your patients probably find that addressing these factors can be daunting, overwhelming, and, let’s face it, boring.

Here at the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) we know that promoting heart health can be fun and improve emotional wellbeing. For example, through NRPA’s Healthy Aging in Parks initiative, park and recreation agencies across the United States offer community-based approaches to chronic disease management that increase community engagement and enhance quality of life. NRPA also offers at-home Food of the Month family engagement resources to help families cook healthy meals and engage in fun physical activities.

This Valentine’s Day, encourage your patients and clients to celebrate with fun, heart-healthy activities that lower stress and can increase happiness. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Go Dancing! Encourage your patients and clients to attend a dance at a park and recreation agency in your community for date night or whole family fun.
  2. Give Back! Few activities express love and gratitude as much as the act of volunteering. Volunteering is a great recommendation for patients suffering from depression or social isolation, or even as a targeted physical activity opportunity for individuals with heart or weight concerns. Refer patients and clients to local park and recreation agencies for fun active volunteer opportunities!
  3. Stop and Smell the Roses! Encourage your patients and clients to take up an outdoor hobby such as gardening. Gardening is an example of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, and research shows it can also decrease stress levels. NRPA’s Commit to Health Initiative offers a variety of home and community gardening resources. In cold weather locations, recommend indoor gardening activities or refer clients to a local greenhouse.
  4. Talk to Coworkers – In Person! In an increasingly sedentary and digital world, in-person interactions may improve mental well-being and walking around for just two minutes every hour can negate the poor health outcomes of sitting and reduce risk of premature death. Have your patients set an hourly reminder to take a two-minute walk and chat with a coworker. Better yet, encourage patients to walk with coworkers outdoors before, during, or after work. Thanks to NRPA’s 10-Minute Walk Campaign, they might just be within a 10-minute walk of a great park!

This American Heart Month, empower patients with the knowledge and resources to create balanced and enjoyable lifestyles and become champions of their hearts on Valentine’s Day and beyond!

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@NRPA_News shares tips on the BAYW blog to help individuals engage in fun activities that improve heart health and reduce depression, including parks and rec activities. http://bit.ly/2GUjVei #MoveWithHeart

The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) is the leading non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of public parks, recreation and conservation. Follow NRPA on Facebook and Twitter for updates about resources, research, and other activities.