Our lifestyle determines how healthy our heart is. A sedentary life and poor dietary choices increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases. According to the guidelines of the American Heart Association (AHA), exercising and quitting unhealthy habits like smoking can help keep the heart in top shape (1), (2). But if you already have an existing heart condition, certain exercises may not be ideal (3). Read this article to know which exercises can help improve your heart health and which ones to avoid. Swipe up!
In This Article
Benefits Of Exercise For Heart Health
You will be surprised to know that exercising can reduce the risk of or potentially reverse many other health conditions. Here’s a list of benefits of exercising regularly for your heart (2), (3), (4):
- Reduces the risk of cardiovascular mortality
- Helps reduce blood pressure
- Promotes weight loss and prevents obesity
- Reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes
- Increases insulin sensitivity
- Helps reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase good cholesterol (HDL)
- Decreases inflammation in the body
- Lowers resting heart rate and risk of thickening of heart muscles (cardiac hypertrophy)
- Improves vascular wall function and the ability to provide oxygen to the muscles
- Increases exercise tolerance
- Improves the quality of life of people with heart conditions
There are more reasons to exercise than not. Which exercises are good for keeping the heart in good shape? Keep scrolling.
10 Best Exercises For A Healthy Heart
- Aerobic Exercises
Aerobics or cardio gets the heart rate up. It also improves blood circulation and overall strength, endurance, and fitness gradually. The AHA recommends 30 minutes of cardio five days a week to improve cardiovascular health (5). Here’s a list of aerobic exercises effective for boosting heart health.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), moderate to brisk walking is good for heart health (6). Do a mix of moderate and brisk walking to improve cardiovascular output without stressing the lungs or tiring yourself.
As the AHA recommends, “walk with purpose.” Whether you are stressed out, need some air, or want to think of an idea – take a walk. You may take your pet or baby out for a stroll, walk for a social cause, or with a group of friends – it is great for your physical and mental health. Don’t forget to take a bottle of water along!
Biking or bicycling is great low-impact cardio to keep your heart healthy. Research shows that bicycling can help reduce cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk in middle-aged men and women (7). Another study showed that people who cycled had an 11-18% lower risk of coronary heart disease (8). Instead of a car, use a bicycle to commute to nearby places. This will get your heart pumping and tone the muscles of your calves, thighs, and glutes.
3. Playing A Sport
Do you enjoy playing a sport? Or have you always wanted to? Then, it’s time to get the adrenaline pumping with a lot of serotonin. Playing a sport (like badminton, tennis, or basketball) increases circulation and oxygen flow and gets the heart pumping, which helps improve heart health. However, if you have an existing heart condition, avoid extreme exertion and talk to your doctor before playing a sport or joining a group.
Swimming is a full-body exercise that helps improve cardiovascular output, muscle strength, endurance, and fitness. However, it may not be ideal for all. If you have an existing heart condition, talk to your doctor to know if you can swim.
5. Household Chores
Household chores are a great way to keep moving and stay active. Activities like cleaning, dusting, rearranging the kitchen or wardrobe, watering the plants, etc., are great ways to keep your heart healthy.
- Strength Training
Apart from aerobic exercise, include strength training in your routine. It is also great for improving heart muscle strength and toning the body. Doing 30 minutes of strength training two days a week can be highly beneficial. Here are the types of strength exercises you can do.
6. Resistance Band Exercises
Resistance training is a great way to add a challenge to your workout routine. A study showed that resistance exercise could lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) in women of any age and reduce body fat, blood sugar, and total cholesterol (9). Resistance bands come in various thicknesses, and it is best to start with the one that provides the most resistance for your fitness level. Here are a few resistance band exercises you can do.
7. Weight Training
Love working out with dumbbells, barbells, and the Smith machine? Well, they are good for keeping your body and heart in shape. Yes, weight training was considered unsafe for people with heart disease, but new findings show that it is safe and effective. Talk to your doctor and do the weight training under the supervision of a certified and experienced fitness professional. Exercises customized to your needs can get you better results.
8. Bodyweight Exercises
If you do not like to lift weights, you can do bodyweight training. In this workout, you lift your body’s weight instead of dumbbells or weight plates. It can include moderate to high-intensity exercises like push-ups, mountain climbers, high jumps, squats, etc. Your trainer will design a safe and effective bodyweight training program, depending on your fitness level and heart condition.
- Balance And Flexibility
Balance and flexibility exercises are also great for improving heart rate, reducing CVD risk, and enhancing muscle tone. Here are some exercises you can do:
Stretching the muscles after your workout routine helps cool them down (walk or jog to warm up the muscles before exercising). You can also do exercises like touching the toes, calf stretches, and neck and arm stretches while sitting. Stretch for a good 10-15 minutes every day.
Yoga asanas and pranayama are great for improving heart health. They improve muscle tone and lung capacity while relieving stress. Scientists state that yoga is a useful lifestyle intervention for managing cardiovascular diseases (10). Rehabilitation trainers also believe that yoga adds value to recovery therapy for people with CVD (11).
Remember, it is not possible and advisable to do all of these exercises at once. What is the ideal frequency for these exercises? Find out in the following section.
How Much And How Often To Exercise?
The American Heart Association recommends 150 hours of moderate-intensity and 75 minutes of vigorous exercise (12). This means you can either do 30 minutes of cardio for five days or 50 minutes of cardio for three days and 35-40 minutes of strength training or stretching exercises.
Customize your cardio routine according to your heart’s condition and lifestyle. Start with three days of cardio and one day of strength training/yoga. Increase the frequency to 4-5 days of cardio and 2-3 days of weight training as you progress.
However, if you have an existing heart condition, you must avoid doing a few exercises. Scroll down to find out.
Which Exercises To Avoid
- High-intensity interval training
- Running marathons
- Taking part in triathlons.
Stressing the arteries and heart is not ideal. If you have a heart condition, it is best to talk to a fitness professional before starting any exercise. You can take the following precautions while exercising.
Precautions To Take
- Talk to your doctor before starting any exercise.
- Do supervised exercises.
- Join an exercise group that specializes in cardiovascular therapy.
- Always warm up before exercising.
- Take time to do cool-down stretches post-workout.
- If you feel breathless or experience sharp pain, stop immediately and rest.
If your heart is in good shape, you will have a better quality of life. A moderate-intensity exercise routine with a balanced mix of cardio, strength training, and stretches can help you achieve that. Change your diet and quit smoking to see a great improvement in your heart health. Talk to your doctor today and get started! Take care.
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- Cardiovascular Disease
- Exercise and Cardiovascular Health
- Cardiovascular Effects and Benefits of Exercise
- Effects of Exercise to Improve Cardiovascular Health
- American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids
- Warm Weather Fitness Guide
- Bicycling to Work and Primordial Prevention of Cardiovascular Risk: A Cohort Study Among Swedish Men and Women
- Prospective Study of Bicycling and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Danish Men and Women
- The association between resistance exercise and cardiovascular disease risk in women
- Role of Yoga in Cardiac Disease and Rehabilitation
- Yoga in cardiac health (a review)
- How much physical activity do you need?