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3 simple ways to protect your heart this holiday season

The holidays are hectic and your workout time is limited, so here's a quick cardio circuit to help crush calories and strengthen your heart.

Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt

Is a healthy heart at the top of your wish list this year? During the month of December, our schedules shift from eating well and exercising to overindulging on salty snacks and sugary sips.

And although it is the season to be jolly, too much fun can lead to health hazards such as elevated blood pressure and an increased risk for heart attack and stroke. Plus, added seasonal stressors such as financial struggles and holiday-related depression can further tax your ticker. No wonder hospital visits tend to spike during this time of year.

Keep your heart healthy and light this holiday by following these guidelines:

Practice portion control. No one expects you to deny and deprive yourself of food and drink-related joy. Instead, practice these five simple health hacks to keep you from going overboard:

  1. Don't go back for seconds.

  2. Avoid rich, cream-based sauces.

  3. Start your day with a healthy breakfast, such as oatmeal or egg whites with toast.

  4. Limit caffeine and stay hydrated.

  5. Snack smart. Deep-fried, battered appetizers are loaded with the saturated and trans fats responsible for clogged arteries. Opt for such fresh foods as shrimp cocktail and raw veggies instead of greasy grub.

Meditate. The holidays can be overwhelming. Take 10 minutes each day to turn off your mind. Here's how:

  1. Switch off your devices, close your blinds, and find a comfortable spot to sit.

  2. Keep your spine straight, shoulders back and neck relaxed. Take a deep breath in through your nose, filling your belly with calming air, and hold for two counts. Exhale fully through your mouth until your stomach sinks.

  3. Continue focusing on your breathing for 10 minutes. If your mind begins to wander, let it for a few seconds, but then bring your attention back to your breathing.

Exercise. You know you weren't getting off that easy! Exercise is essential for warding off weight gain, reducing stress, and keeping your heart healthy. I know the holidays are hectic and your workout time is limited, so I've created a quick cardio circuit to help crush calories and strengthen your heart.

This routine is completely body-weight-based, making it easy to complete anywhere, anytime. For best results, repeat this circuit three times, resting 30 seconds between exercises and 60 seconds between rounds.

Latke lunge: Start with your legs staggered, with your right leg in front of your left. Bend your knees to lower your body into a split squat stance, with your right knee aligned above your ankle and left knee stacked below your hip. Keep your core muscles engaged as you briskly swing your arms for 15 seconds. Repeat on the opposite leg.

Jolly jumping jacks: This exercise is similar to the standard jumping jack but with a slight shift in the arm and leg positioning. Jump your feet out and extend your arms so they form a T shape. Now, jump your feet in, bringing your arms across your body. With each rep, alternate which arm is on top. Repeat for 60 seconds.

Trimming taps: Stand close to a small step or other fixed object as you quickly tap your feet against the surface. Increase your heart rate by swinging your arms rapidly with each step. Perform for 30 seconds.

This season, give yourself the gift of good health.

Ashley Blake Greenblatt is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach with a focus on movement and mindfulness. To learn more, visit