Heartfelt Workouts: 3 Essential Exercises for Your Ticker
“Get active” might sound much too simple when it comes to improving heart health, but it really is the secret recipe. There are a lot of things you can do to improve the health of your heart, including cleaning up your diet, lowering blood pressure, promoting healthy cholesterol levels, reducing stress, and more. But, if you want fast improvement, add these easy exercises for your ticker to your workout program.
What Does the American Heart Association Say?
The American Heart Association has set up guidelines for healthy adults that include a weekly proposed schedule for cardiovascular conditioning. They suggest you get at least 150 minutes of moderately intense aerobic-type exercise per week. Alternatively, you can aim for 75 minutes of vigorous cardio per week or a combination of both moderate and vigorous work.
For a healthy ticker, the Association goes on to recommend that you stand more and move more. Less sitting around and more activity overall can help you make improvements.
Lastly, adding resistance training to your regimen, at least two days per week, will help you build and maintain muscle. (Remember, the heart is a muscle, too!)
Heart Rate and Its Role in Heart Health
Exercise is all good and well, but there’s another factor at play when it comes to heart health, and that is heart rate. What is heart rate and why does it matter?
Heart rate is the number of beats your heart produces per minute. Intensity and heart rate are also intricately entwined. The harder you push yourself, the more you also challenge your heart.
Your heart rate can also determine your level of fitness and even your overall health. A normal heart rate will be between 60 and 100 beats per minute. The point of exercise is to raise your heart rate briefly for short periods of time, strengthening and challenging the heart muscle. This can be accomplished through a variety of exercises like some of those below.
The more fit you become over time, the lower your resting heart rate will be. Challenging your heart to do more on a regular basis is how you improve your cardiovascular fitness and reap the associated health rewards.
The Best Exercises for Your Ticker
Exercise is beneficial across the board, and many exercises will help strengthen the heart and help reduce your overall risk factors for cardiovascular events. Most exercises are going to be great for your overall and heart health. But, there are some specific types of exercise that are simply unbeatable.
Interval Training—this type of training (also known as HIIT, or high-intensity interval training) provides short bursts of intensity that challenge your heart while still making such a tough workout doable. Since you’re only doing multiple short bouts of all-out effort, interspersed with active rest in between, you can reap the benefits of a very intense workout without burning out quickly. Try a routine like this:
Warm up for 3 to 10 minutes
Repeat this sequence for 15 – 20 minutes:
2 minutes slow walk
30 seconds brisk walk
Cool down for 3 to 10 minutes
You can use this type of pattern to create your own HIIT workouts as well. Simply take an activity (e.g., cycling, jogging, bodyweight workouts, boxing, circuit training, etc.) and break it up into short spans of extreme effort, followed by enough slower activity to allow your heart rate to normalize again.
Continuous Cardio—doing gentle, low-impact exercise for an extended period of time (30 – 60 minutes) will also help strengthen and condition your heart. A steady cadence can improve your endurance and balance and burn extra calories. (It can also help relieve stress and boost mental health.)
If you want to keep it easy, the simplest exercise you can do for heart health is walking. As benign as it may sound, walking is actually an extremely effective exercise for your ticker. Of course, you’ll burn calories and improve muscle tone through walking, but you’ll also lower cholesterol and blood pressure as you continue with your walking program.
If you’re sedentary now, start small with 10- to 15-minute gentle strolls. Work your way up to longer and faster walks by adding a few minutes to your program each week until you’re able to walk 5 to 6 days a week for 30 minutes up to an hour, at a brisk pace.
Another wonderful exercise that is low impact, fun, and very effective for ticker health is swimming. Swimming is great for people who may suffer from joint issues or are recovering from injury. The water supports your body and allows you to work your heart and muscles without putting stress on your joints.
Try other endurance-type activities to improve your ticker like biking, hiking, dancing, housework, or whatever you like to do to move your body.
Resistance Training—while cardio is great for your heart, you might be surprised to know that it’s also important that you don’t skimp on the weight training. Your heart is a muscle and will benefit from this type of exercise as well.
Not only does weight training help you keep health markers in check, like cardiovascular exercise does, but you’ll also build lean muscle. Changing the composition of your body will help you better perform everyday functions as you get stronger, lose body fat, and improve endurance. And, studies show that resistance training also helps you greatly lower your risk of heart attack and stroke.
To be effective, train with weights at least twice a week (at a minimum), and be sure to work your full body at least once a week.
Improving your heart health doesn’t have to be a daunting task. It’s actually much easier than you think and something you can start on today with these exercises for your ticker.