Like every muscle, the best way to keep your heart strong is to use it. And like every exercise, you can choose to work on specific muscles like the heart. You don’t need to be the greatest athlete or the hardest trainer to boost your heart health, but you can choose the right kinds of exercise that’ll help keep your heart pumping.
What kinds of exercise do I need for heart health?
Any form of moderate exercise is good for overall health, but to focus on your heart, you’ll want to do aerobic exercises. An aerobic exercise, also known as “cardio,” can be any exercise that requires your heart to constantly pump oxygenated blood to your working muscles. Cardio exercises stimulate your heart rate and breathing rate, and challenge your heart to become stronger.
Whenever your heart beats, it circulates a volume of blood called a stroke volume. The stroke volume contains oxygen and other nutrients to send through your body to be consumed by muscles. By performing aerobic exercises, your muscles consume more oxygen, requiring the heart to beat faster and move more oxygenated blood. Over time, your heart will become stronger and pump a greater stroke volume.
It is recommended to get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise a week.
Here are a few aerobic exercises that’ll give your heart health a boost.
- Brisk walking or hiking
Time to throw on those walking shoes and go outside. Walking and hiking are great ways to start exercising your heart. Try taking a 20-25 minute walk each day, either around the neighborhood or on a trail.
- Jogging or running
If you’re ready to push yourself a little harder, try going for a run or a jog. You can start small by running for 2-3 minutes for every 5 minutes of walking. The key is to keep your pace steady so that you don’t run out of breath.
Jump right into your workout. Swimming is a great way to improve heart health and muscular strength and tone. It’s also a low-impact exercise, making it a good alternative to walking and running if you have joint pain.
This is another aerobic exercise that is low impact, so it’s easy on the joints. Cycling gets your heart pumping while building your lower body strength. Try a spinning class at the gym, or hit the trails outside. You can also try cycling to work or to run errands.
Who says exercising your heart can’t be fun? Dancing gets your heart rate going and can be a low-impact exercise depending on the style of dance. Best part is you can listen to your favorite tunes while you’re at it.
Key tip for exercising for heart health
Almost any exercise will get your heart beat going, but if your focus is on improving heart health, you’ll want to make sure your exercises don’t become anaerobic. Anaerobic simply means “without oxygen,” and it refers to any exercise that makes you lose your breath quickly. Even if you choose one of the exercises listed, it can become anaerobic if you’re pushing yourself too hard. So be sure to pace yourself so that your heart can keep up with your exercise.
If you have chronic medical issues, have physical limitations, or do not exercise regularly, it is recommended that you discuss exercise and physical activity with your physician.
: American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults. American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults. N.p., 27 July 2016. Web.