Exercises to Keep Your Heart Healthy
Best Exercises for Heart Health
Exercise helps build your muscles, and the heart is one of the hardest working muscles in your body. To keep your heart strong and healthy, you need to exercise regularly.
Officials recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise and at least two weekly strengthening exercise sessions.1 Getting the recommended weekly exercise will protect your heart and help you feel better overall.
If you aren't sure where to start when it comes to exercising, the following are great for the heart.
Aerobic exercises, sometimes called cardio exercises, increase your heart and breathing rate. But don't worry, you don't have to get completely out of breath or push your heart rate to the max to see the benefits.
Aerobic exercises that help your heart include brisk walking, running, biking, swimming, and dancing. The intensity of the exercise determines the overall effect it has on your heart. Vigorous exercise, such as running or cycling fast, raises your heart rate more than moderate exercises, such as walking.
You need less vigorous aerobic exercise to see the benefits than you do moderate aerobic exercise. For example, while you may need to walk 30 minutes a day to see an improvement in your heart health, running for 15 minutes a day can provide a similar improvement.
During vigorous exercise, you won't be able to converse with a workout buddy. During moderate-intensity exercise, you can talk to a buddy but shouldn't be able to sing.1
If it's been a while since you participated in any physical activity, start slowly and talk to your doctor first. If you go too hard, too soon, you risk injuring yourself.
Muscle strengthening exercises help you build muscle mass and reduce fat levels in the body. Resistance or strengthening exercise can also lower your risk of heart disease.2 Strength training may help lower your LDL or "bad" cholesterol levels when combined with cardio exercises.
Aim for at least two weekly strength training sessions, on non-consecutive days. You can work out with weights at the gym or try resistance exercises that use your body weight, such as Pilates or yoga.
While stretching doesn't directly impact your health, keeping your muscles flexible reduces the risk of injury during exercise. The less likely you are to injure yourself, the better able you'll be to continue exercising.
Always stretch before and after other types of exercise. You may also consider an exercise routine that combines stretching with cardio and strengthening exercises, such as power yoga.
How to Choose Your Exercises
A combination of cardio, strengthening, and stretching exercises will keep your heart strong and healthy. When choosing the specific kinds of exercise to do, focus on what you enjoy most. If you hate running, try another type of cardio, like cycling or swimming. Playing a sport, such as soccer or tennis, can also help you get your cardio in.
Getting fit doesn't necessarily mean going to a gym, either. You don't have to buy a lot of expensive weights to build your strength. At home, you can follow Pilates, yoga, or no-equipment videos on YouTube. To make your workouts more social, consider signing up for a dance, Pilates, yoga, or aerobics class at a local studio.
To get the most from your exercise routine, always to talk to your family doctor before getting started. They can help you choose an exercise that you'll enjoy that's appropriate for your current fitness level.
1. How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?, Centers for Disease Control, https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm
2. Associations of Resistance Exercise with Cardiovascular Disease Morbidity and Mortality, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30376511/
ve Younger-Onset Alzheimer's Disease, Alzheimer's Association, https://www.alz.org/help-support/i-have-alz/younger-onset