Staying active is a good way to keep a strong heart and reduce the chances of developing heart disease, research shows. By exercising you are not only setting yourself up to live a long and healthy life, but so are you prioritizing heart health.
Different types of exercise, such as walking, can keep your heart in good shape. We spoke to experts to determine the best exercises you should be doing to maintain one healthy heart, brain and body. There’s something to suit every lifestyle, whether you like low-intensity or high-intensity exercise. Get the most out of these workouts by adding them to your workout routine today.
Why exercise is important for your heart
Exercise in general is beneficial for cardiovascular health. It makes you less likely to develop heart problems as you age, for one. it helps lower blood pressure, increases your high-density lipoprotein (or good cholesterol), reduces stress, and improves your heart’s ability to pump more blood to your muscles by efficiently transferring oxygen from the blood. It also has indirect benefits.
“Exercise can also help control cardiovascular risk factors such as diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity,” said Dr. Lance LaMotte, interventional cardiologist, fellow of the American College of Cardiology and owner of Title Boxing Club in Baton Rouge, LA.
On the other hand, it is also important to stay active as you age because inactivity has been linked to a greater chance of developing heart disease. It also increases the chances of a major cardiovascular event. LaMotte said, “Studies have shown a decreased likelihood of heart attack and stroke by maintaining or increasing activity with age.” In addition to keeping your heart healthy, LaMotte added that as you age, exercise can also improve your cognition and memory.
What exercises are best for your heart?
Any exercise that gets your heart rate up is good for your heart health, said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a preventive cardiologist and member of the Peloton Health and Wellness Advisory Council: “I have always said that exercise is the best treatment and prevention for heart disease and for living a healthier and happier life.” . LaMotte added that “almost any form of regular exercise can provide tremendous cardiovascular benefits, whether it’s traditional cardio like walking, running, cycling, swimming, high-intensity interval training, resistance training, or total-body training, like boxing”.
Although all exercise provides benefits for heart health, there are certain exercises that stand out as ideal for keeping your heart strong. Here’s a breakdown of five of the top exercises for heart health. These exercises get your heart pumping and offer a variety of options to prevent overuse injuries and work different muscles.
A good rule of thumb to follow with interval training is that keep exercise short and intense followed by a rest period of the same length or shorter in between. Interval training is a good option when you’re short on time and want to work up a sweat quickly. Studies even suggest that HIIT-style or high-intensity interval training improves heart and lung health, as well as the heart’s response to exercise. Additionally, there are apps and workout programs you can download that focus on this type of training if you’re not sure where to start.
Weightlifting may be slower paced, but it’s also one good way to increase heart rate and improve heart strength. A study found that lifting weights can reduce your chances of having a stroke or heart attack by about 40% to 70%. Depending on your goals, it’s helpful to connect with a personal trainer who can teach you the proper techniques and create a personalized workout program for you.
Walking is just as beneficial as running, but it is gentler on the body. It’s easy to do anywhere and you can get even more benefits by picking up the pace. “Walking is a low-intensity exercise that has been shown to benefit the heart, especially when you’re walking at a fast pace and pumping your arms,” Steinbaum said. Research suggests that Brisk walking can further improve your cardiovascular health compared to walking slowly. Other ways to make your walks more challenging are by walking with some hand weights, adding half a mile to each walk, or adding in bodyweight exercises every now and then.
Yoga is known to lower blood pressure, improve your flexibility and balance, and help reduce any pain. Yoga can be done in the comfort of your home — All you need is a yoga mat and a little space to move around.
Swimming is a low-impact, full-body workout that’s gentle on the joints, but still packs some cardio punch. Swimming keeps your lungs and heart strong and even helps lower blood pressure. It’s a great aerobic option if you’re recovering from an injury or if your body doesn’t respond well to high-impact exercise.
Where should you start?
Before starting any new exercise program, it is important to discuss it with your doctor, especially if you have had any previous health problems or if heart problems run in your family. LaMotte said that “if cardiovascular risk factors are present, it is advisable to have a doctor’s clearance beforehand.” Steinbaum agreed and said, “Blood pressure monitoring, cholesterol panel, hemoglobin A1C (sugars), and inflammatory markers, among other indicators, are vital sources of information to help determine risk levels for higher-intensity exercise.” up.” However, if you are a generally healthy individual, use your best judgment when starting a new workout and stay within your limits.
If you’re just starting your exercise journey, it’s important to make sure you don’t do too much too soon. LaMotte recommended starting slowly to build consistency and set reasonable goals. For example, if you’re just starting to run, it’s better to focus on completing a certain distance at a comfortable pace, rather than increasing the intensity AND coping with the distance at the same time.
A good rule of thumb is to follow the recommendations of the American Heart Association. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both per week. Along with this, you should include resistance training at least two days a week. “Studies have shown that activities that get the heart rate into the heart rate zone at moderate intensity are the best option for optimal cardiovascular benefits,” advises Steinbaum.
The best way to do this is to explore and find an activity that you enjoy and know you will be consistent with. Some people may find it helpful to have a workout buddy or small group of friends who can hold them accountable. “It’s also important to be in tune with your body’s responses to reduce injury,” cautioned LaMotte, adding that hydration and rest days are also important to minimize the risk of injury and fatigue.
Additionally, it’s important to balance heart-healthy exercise with a healthy diet. “I always tell my patients that they can’t exercise on a poor diet,” advises LaMotte. “A diet low in saturated fat, refined sugars and sodium can help control or lower blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels.”
If you have a family history of heart disease, it’s important to start checking your numbers at age 20 for blood pressure, cholesterol and sugars. “If a woman has a history of complications during pregnancy such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes or high blood pressure, she should have her heart checked,” Steinbaum said. For other individuals, she said, “knowing your numbers” and getting an annual wellness visit is part of a heart-healthy life.
For more research-backed tips for keeping your heart healthy, here they are nine things you can do now to lower your risk of heart disease. Plus, here it is How to check heart health at home no fancy equipment.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.
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