Your heart is a muscle, like other muscles in the body. Except this one keeps working every second of your life. There are simple ways to exercise it such as with dumbbells (repetitions of light weights) or using the machines at the gym. A healthy heart does require exercise, and some workout routines are more suited for heart health than others. By exercising regularly, you can raise your good cholesterol, lower your bad cholesterol, and lower your blood pressure…not to mention burn calories!
The American Heart Association says we should get at least 30 minutes of exercise that’s moderate-to-vigorous, pretty much every day of the week. But if you’re new to working out, or it’s been a while since you’ve been a regular at the gym, figuring out what to do during those 30 minutes can be daunting.
These are a few of the best exercises to keep your heart healthy and pumping.
Circuit training involves a high amount of intensity, but spread across various muscle groups throughout the body. It’s characterized by alternating periods of work and rest between the upper and lower body. Consider joining a class at the gym or Crossfit to engage in group circuit training routines and stay accountable to your fitness goals.
Your core, including your abs and back muscles, is essential to overall physical health and a healthy heart. One of the best core workouts is Pilates, which involves a series of poses that strength the core, lengthen the spine, and utilize commonly forgotten muscle groups.
Core exercises easily translate to the real world, as you use your core to grab cans out of the pantry, lift groceries from the trunk, and play every time of sport you can think of.
Running is great way to stay in shape, but it’s best for the heart when you run in intervals. Rather than steady long-distance running, which has its advantages too, interval training keeps the heart active by depleting carbohydrates and glycogen stored in muscles and tapping into stored fat.
If you’re new to interval training, try simply switching up the intensity of your workout every 30 seconds. You can also practice interval training with cycling, stair climbing, and on the elliptical machine.
Yoga is one of the best exercises you can do to keep your heart healthy. This exercise strengthens and tones your muscles, while lowering your blood pressure, and calming your mind.
There are many different styles of yoga, some more intense or relaxing than others. For example, Bikram yoga is done in a heated room to provide an elevated heart rate and a challenging environment.
Lots of people are intimidated by weight training, but it’s not all that scary once you have a game plan and some training goals established. Not only does lifting weights help you gain muscle and burn fat, but it also helps your heart and bones stay healthy.
And interestingly, you don’t even need any weights to do weight training! Try exercises that put your own body weight to use, such as push-ups and planks.
Swimming (in a pool or in the ocean, maybe with a pet)
Putting in a few laps at the pool can really boost your heart health and your lung capacity too. It is very low-impact. Beginner swimmers should try to start with six or eight pool lengths and progress from there. Swimming is also great for people who want to exercise but who have joint or mobility issues.
But regardless of which exercise you connect with and learn to keep as part of your routine, the most important thing is to be as active as possible every day. Being active goes beyond clocking in that obligatory hour at the gym and encompasses the things you do in your daily life like cleaning, running errands, walking the dog, and playing with your kids. Try to be active in some way (any way!) for at least an hour each day to give your heart the power it needs to keep pumping!
Or if you are a little adventurous, go snorkeling with Richard and swim with his pet shark.