February is American Heart Month, a time to concentrate on improving your cardiovascular health and learning ways to prevent heart disease.
Did you know that if you don’t exercise on a regular basis you’re twice as likely to develop heart disease as someone who does?
One of the best things you can do for heart health is exercise. Exercise strengthens your heart and helps to reduce your risk for heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. It’s recommended that you try to exercise at least 150 minutes per week for heart health, but not all exercise is created equal. There are some forms of exercise that are better for strengthening your heart than others.
1. Walking. The number one exercise to strengthen your heart is walking. It’s easy, free, easy on your joints, and is a great way to begin exercising for those who have been sedentary for too long. In fact, all you really need is a good pair of sneakers, and you can walk most anywhere. Make sure you’re walking fast enough to get your heart rate up; start slowly and build up to covering more miles as you become more fit.
2. Strength training. You may falsely believe that only cardio activity is good for your heart, but doing some form of strength training is also beneficial for heart health. Experts recommend that all adults should be performing strength training exercises for all major muscle groups at least two days per week. The older you get, the more important it becomes because strength training can reduce your chance of falling as well as making your bones stronger. You can opt for weight training with dumbbells or weight machines in a gym, or do bodyweight exercises.
3. Yoga. Yoga is not just for flexibility. Some types of yoga can definitely raise your heart rate while also relaxing your mind and helping you de-stress. It can strengthen and tone your muscles and also lower blood pressure, all good things for your heart.
4. Swimming. Swimming doesn’t have to just be a fun summer activity. If your gym has an indoor pool, participating in water aerobics classes or swimming laps will provide a full-body workout that will not only tone your muscles but also your heart muscle. Swimming and water workouts are particularly good for people who have joint problems or other pain issues.
5. Cycling. Cycling has been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease. A 2018 study published in the journal “Circulation” found that people who cycled regularly had about 15 percent fewer heart attacks than non-cyclists. Even those who only did a small amount of biking had lower rates of heart disease.
Even small amounts of cardio exercise can have heart health benefits. Regular workouts can make your heart stronger and improve the function of your blood vessels, improve oxygen flow throughout your body, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, and reduce your risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and some types of cancer.