What are the Top Heart-Healthy Exercises?

Written by Stefanie Lisa, CPT, CFN

Heart-Healthy Exercises

It’s pretty clear that the heart is very important and that it’s a good idea to include heart-healthy exercises in your routine if you want optimal health. But what exactly does that mean and what kinds of exercises should you be doing specifically for your heart?

How Do You Know If You Have a Healthy Heart or Not?

It may be easier to start by describing the conditions that would indicate an absence of health when it comes to your heart. Heart diseases and illnesses can include:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiomyopathies
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Heart arrhythmia
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack

Some of the symptoms of an unhealthy heart can include chest tightness or pain; pressure; shortness of breath; pain in the neck, jaw, back, or even stomach; numbness in extremities; fainting; irregular heartbeat; swelling in the ankles; and excessive fatigue

Naturally, an absence of these symptoms is great and may indicate a healthy heart. Just because you’re not currently experiencing any of the above doesn’t mean you’re necessarily in the clear, nor should you skimp on heart-healthy exercises.

How Much Exercise Is Needed for a Healthy Heart?

Any amount of exercise is going to be an improvement over no exercise. That being said, there are some guidelines to follow when it comes to heart-healthy exercises. According to The American Journal of Medicine, a minimal amount of activity, as little as one hour a week, can lead to a reduced risk for heart-related conditions. If you want to get even better results and more benefits, doing at least 15 to 30 minutes of exercise daily is a better prescription for good health.

However, studies show you don’t have to go crazy. Doing more than one hour of cardio a day does not seem to provide additional benefits over moderate daily exercise. Studies, for example, show that even taking multiple 10-minute walks can be very beneficial when it comes to your health.

What Are the Best Heart-Healthy Exercises?

If you want to keep your heart healthy, then you’ll need to work on cardiovascular fitness. Given the fact that your heart will beat around 2.5 billion times while you’re alive and that it will process millions of gallons of blood, it’s clear that heart-healthy exercises should be at the top of your priority list.

1. Walking—at the top of your list should simply be walking. Walking is an activity almost anyone can do, anytime, anywhere. It’s so convenient it’s hard not to be able to fit it in at least somewhere in your schedule. Even if you can’t find the time for a full-fledged walk, you can still park further away from your destination, get up from your chair more often than necessary, and take the stairs whenever possible.

2. High-Intensity Interval Training—also known as “HIIT,” this type of training can garner you next-level health benefits. Not only will you burn off tons of calories while you’re doing this type of workout, but you’ll continue to burn calories long after your exercise session has ended. As your body improves its ability to use oxygen, your resting heart rate will slow and your blood pressure will drop.

3. Swimming—as the third most popular form of aerobic exercise in the United States, swimming as little as 30 minutes a day will help you strengthen your heart and burn off excess calories, all while cradling fragile bones and joints. And, if you want to do more but you suffer from injuries, arthritis, knee pain, or other ailments, check out a water aerobics class. You’ll get all of the benefits of a great workout with none of the stress on your body.

4. Standing—it is also advisable to stand regularly, especially if you have a desk job. Try to get up at least once every hour and stand or walk for at least ten minutes. Too much sitting can cause numerous health issues, but in sharp contrast, standing as little as 10 minutes every hour can help you burn as many extra calories as running several marathons a year. Standing and moving around will increase muscle activity, help you control blood sugar, and over time, improve health across the board.

5. Resistance Training—burning off body fat and adding metabolically active lean muscle mass to your body is one of the best things you can do for your heart overall. Combining your weight workouts with your aerobic exercise will give you that one-two punch you need to get your heart in great shape.

Scientists say lifting weights consistently several times a week can even help reduce your risk of heart disease by more than 40%. Again, it doesn’t take much. As little as an hour of weight training, spread throughout the week, can bring huge benefits and should be a mainstay as one of the best heart-healthy exercises you can do.

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