best exercises for heart health

A healthy heart is crucial to prevent heart disease and strokes and can be achieved through different types of exercises.

A healthy lifestyle is required for efficient functioning of the heart muscle and overall health. Regular exercise can help you to burn calories, lose weight, lower your blood pressure, and regulate cholesterol levels. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. This means that everyone should participate in at least thirty minutes of moderate activities daily.

The American Heart Association maintains that a sedentary lifestyle is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. People who do not exercise have a doubled risk of heart disease compared to active people.

In the United States, 250,000 deaths per year are influenced by a lack of regular physical activity. It is possible to improve your cardiovascular fitness and reverse the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle through many different types of exercises.

What are the best exercises for heart health and how can you get the best benefits?

Aerobic exercise

Aerobic exercises raise both heart rate and breathing and improves circulation. It includes low-impact activities, such as walking, swimming, and dancing, as well as higher-intensity exercises, including running, hiking, and biking. Aerobic exercises are recommended for people with diabetes as it can help control blood sugar levels.

Walking is an easy, convenient, and low-impact way to burn calories and keep your heart healthy. Walking briskly for thirty minutes per day can be an extremely beneficial exercise to lower the risk for heart disease.

An effective method to prevent heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases is through interval training. This is done by combining short bursts of a high-intensity activity with slightly longer periods of active recovery. Raising and lowering your heart rate in this way improves vascular function and enables the body to remove fats more effectively from the blood.

Strength training

Strength training uses weights or resistance bands to train different muscle groups, specifically the arms, legs, abdomen, chest, shoulders, back, and hips. Strength training exercises also include push-ups, sit-ups, planks, and squats.

Weight training can lower high blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, and increase lean muscle tissue. The American Heart Association suggests that strength training exercises should be done twice a week so that there is time for you to recover between sessions.

A study published in JAMA Cardiology found that resistance training significantly reduced pericardial adipose tissue (a risk factor for cardiovascular disease) in fifty individuals with abdominal obesity.

Core workouts

Flexibility exercises are important for heart health as it prepares your muscles for higher-intensity physical activities. It is vital to stretch before and after exercising so that you can warm up and cool down, respectively.

Yoga can be used to strengthen your core, relieve stress, and keep you calm and focused. Yoga is particularly useful for individuals with high blood pressure as it increases the elasticity of blood vessels and keeps the heart healthy. Pilates and tai chi are other activities that can strengthen your core muscles and improve balance and flexibility.

Studies assessing muscle strength and flexibility before and after exercise programs indicate an improvement in bone health and capacity to complete daily activities, in addition to a reduced possibility of developing back pain.

Move your body

For optimal heart health, it is important to incorporate aerobic and core exercises, as well as strength training, into your weekly routine. The best exercise for heart health will depend on the individual’s fitness level, as well as the form of exercise that they enjoy and are able to perform consistently.

You can also be active and burn calories through doing chores, cleaning, gardening, climbing the stairs, and running errands. Try to reduce the time you spend sitting, move your body, and gradually increase the time and intensity of your activities. Identifying your target heart rate can help you track the intensity of your physical activities.

Always talk to your doctor before making any changes to your exercise routine. Consult a doctor immediately if you experience any pain or pressure in your chest after exercising. It is also important to seek medical attention if you have breathing troubles, break out in a cold sweat, or feel dizzy or light-headed following a workout.

Written by Albina Babu, MSc

References:

American heart association recommendations for physical activity in adults and kids (2018). Heart. Retrieved from: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults

Myers, J. (2003). Exercise and cardiovascular health. Circulation, 107(1), pp.2-5.

Christensen, R.H., et al. (2019). Effect of aerobic and resistance exercise on cardiac adipose tissues: secondary analyses from a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Cardiology, 4(8), pp.778-787.

Image by Joanna Dubaj from Pixabay 

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