We all know exercise is good for us. Exercise helps us lose weight, boost our energy levels and sleep better at night. It also helps to strength the heart.
Exercise is the most effective tool for strengthening our heart muscle. And strengthening your heart is one of the best things you can do for your health. Interestingly enough, when I talk to patients about exercise, I don’t think I have ever had a patient tell me they are exercising or going to start exercising to strengthen their heart. I just don’t think it is something that is on our mind. However, a healthy heart will make a big impact in your life.
In fact, if you don’t exercise you’re more than twice as likely to get heart disease as someone who does. If you have a history of heart disease, or just worry about your heart health, you need to develop a regular exercise routine. Experts recommend you spend at least 150 minutes doing moderate exercise per week.
Here are 3 types of exercise that will help strengthen your heart:
What it does: Aerobic exercise improves circulation, which results in lowered blood pressure and heart rate. It increases your overall aerobic fitness and it helps your cardiac output (how well your heart pumps). Aerobic exercise also reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes and, if you already live with diabetes, helps you control your blood glucose.
How much: Ideally, at least 30 minutes a day, at least five days a week.
Examples: Brisk walking, running, swimming, cycling, playing tennis and jumping rope. Heart-pumping aerobic exercise is the kind that doctors have in mind when they recommend at least 150 minutes per week of moderate activity.
Resistance Training (Strength Work)
What it does: Resistance training has a more specific effect on body composition. For people who are carrying a lot of body fat (including a big belly, which is a risk factor for heart disease), it can help reduce fat and create leaner muscle mass. Research shows that a combination of aerobic exercise and resistance work may help raise HDL (good) cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.
How much: The American Colleges of Sports Medicine recommends 2 days per week of resistance training. Ideally these are not performed 2 days in a row.
Examples: Working out with free weights (such as hand weights, dumbbells or barbells), on weight machines, with resistance bands or through body-resistance exercises, such as push-ups, squats and chin-ups.
Stretching, Flexibility and Balance
What they do: Flexibility workouts, such as stretching, don’t directly contribute to heart health. What they do is benefit musculoskeletal health, which enables you to stay flexible and free from joint pain, cramping and other muscular issues. That flexibility is a critical part of being able to maintain aerobic exercise and resistance training, says Stewart.
“If you have a good musculoskeletal foundation, that enables you to do the exercises that help your heart,” he says. As a bonus, flexibility and balance exercises help maintain stability and prevent falls, which can cause injuries that limit other kinds of exercise.
How much: Every day and before and after other exercise.
Examples: Yoga, tai chi or just basic stretching of the muscles you feel are tight. I love YouTube for yoga videos! Yoga With Adrienne is my favorite but there are so many good options out there.