Exercise offers a variety of benefits to your heart. Some of the main ways are that it helps slow your heart rate and lower blood pressure and reduces stress hormones that negatively impact your heart. Regular exercise can decrease your chances of having a heart attack or dying from heart disease. Some exercises are more effective at improving your ticker than others. If you’re ready to strengthen your heart, try these exercises.
Cardio exercise boosts your heart rate, lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Walking is a popular option. Any aerobic activity that increases your heart rate works, but walking is popular because it’s low impact and easy to do. Most people can take a brisk walk through the neighborhood, regardless of their age and fitness level.
Taking a walk also fits into many schedules, and you only need 30 minutes a day to see the benefits. It’s a fun way to socialize with coworkers or others in the neighborhood or to catch up on podcasts and new music. Other than a decent, supportive pair of shoes, you don’t need equipment to walk, making it a good option for people who don’t want to spend a lot of money to get fit.
Other cardio activities include running, dancing, playing sports, swimming, and much more. If you have bad knees or other mobility issues, try a spin bike, or an upright bike from Southside Fitness. Or use a rowing machine for a gentler but effective cardio workout.
Weight training is another great way to improve heart health. You don’t have to do it every day to reap the benefits. Research has shown that lifting weights for as little as an hour a week can cut your heart attack risk by 40% or more.
Aerobic exercises like walking and other cardio activities help improve your circulation, and weight training helps you build muscle mass. Weight training also helps your body burn fat more efficiently. In particular, it helps you burn dangerous fat that builds around the abdomen and increases your risk of cardiovascular disease.
You don’t have to master the deadlift or start flipping tires to benefit your heart. Even moderate weightlifting of about 75 percent of your max can help decrease your risk of heart disease. If you’re a gym member, you can use weight machines or work out with free weights or kettlebells.
If you prefer working out at home, you can also buy some free weights or kettlebells and do a few weight training sessions every week. You can also do body weight exercises including crunches, dips, squats, and others designed to build muscle.
Stretching and Flexibility
Stretching and flexibility exercises including yoga, Pilates, Barre, and others help lower your blood pressure and improve blood flow. These exercises can also ease stress and muscle tension, helping manage pain. Along with your physical health, they may also improve your mental health.
Yoga in particular teaches deep breathing techniques you can use to calm down in stressful moments. It also helps promote relaxation and mindfulness, both of which can ease your stress. When you’re stressed, your body releases hormones including adrenaline and cortisol that can raise your blood pressure and contribute to heart disease. By using yoga to calm down, you can keep these hormones in check. By letting you strengthen major and minor muscle groups, yoga helps prevent sports injuries or helps you recover faster if you have one. You can stick with your routine instead of losing progress due to an injury.
You don’t have to master complex yoga poses to benefit your heart. Research has shown that a simple stretching routine can reduce stiffness in the arteries, which helps lower your risk of high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Pilates also teaches you to focus on your breath, and it’s a little more intense than yoga. Using a reformer can help you target your major and minor muscle groups in a full-body workout.
Putting it All Together
Your heart will benefit most when you mix up your exercise. Each type of exercise benefits your heart in a different way. Mixing up your exercise routine keeps you from getting bored so you’ll be more likely to stick with it.
Starting out a new fitness routine can be scary if you’ve never worked out or if it’s been a long time. Start slow and work your way up. Even small changes like walking for 30 minutes three times a week can help improve your cardiovascular health. Stick with the exercises that you find most comfortable and take the first steps on the path to heart health.