10 exercises to keep your heart healthy
When it comes to maintaining a healthy heart exercise is a must. While there are a number of benefits from working out, doctors say it is the number one thing that can prevent heart disease.
With summer only four months away, and while getting is shape is the most commonly broken New Year’s Resolution, it may be time to get off the couch and on to the treadmill to start making some positive lifestyle changes.
In honor of Heart Health Month, we spoke to some personal trainers and listed out some of the best exercises you can do for your heart.
Not all of the workouts require a gym membership or will take up a significant portion of your day. Going on just a 30-minute walk each day has many proven health benefits such as improving blood circulation, improving blood cholesterol levels, managing stress, and preventing and managing high blood pressure, which all reduce the risk of heart disease.
“They key is to start moving,” said Charles Biggs, a personal trainer at 12th Street Gym in Philadelphia. “You can’t go from zero to hero overnight. Fitness and health is a lifestyle, and you want to approach it as such.”
And it’s never too late to start. According to the American Heart Association, for each hour of regular exercise you do, you’ll get about two hours of additional life expectancy, even if you wait until middle age.
10 exercises for a healthy heart:
1. Brisk walking – This is one of the easiest things you can do if you're just starting off. This exercise can just be a casual stroll around your neighborhood with some friends for a half hour each day. “For those starting off exercising, brisk walking is great to get your heart rate up and burn some calories,” Biggs said. “Get supportive and comfortable shoes, put on a good music playlist and go.” Try for 30 minutes a day, five days per week.
2. Running and using the elliptical –These aerobic exercises will bring your heart rate up higher than it is raised by walking, and will give you a higher calorie burn if you’re looking to lose weight. It’s convenient to do either outside or in the gym. “If you have knee problems, try the elliptical as a low-impact cardio machine alternative,” Biggs said.
3. Swimming – Going to a pool 20-30 minutes a day for some laps is another great aerobic exercise that benefits the body in many ways. “Swimming offers a great low impact exercise that will engage your back and shoulder muscles,” Biggs said. “It allows you to get a resistance baring effect that will not only improve your heart health and increase your heart rate, but help improve muscle tone.”
4. Circuit Training – This type of workout keeps your heart rate elevated by working multiple large muscle groups with little rest in between the sets, Biggs said. The circuits can involve a number of different aerobic exercises such as squat thrusts, sit ups and medicine ball chest passes. “These workouts help increase your metabolism, burn calories, improve bone density, improve your overall body composition, and improve heart health,” Biggs said. “Circuit training allows you to combine both resistance and cardiovascular exercise in one.” He said this training can be done three days per week.
5. Interval Training – This exercise is similar to circuit training in that it uses a variety of exercises with rotations, but this one uses mainly cardio exercises. “Interval training allows you to have shorter, intense activity followed by more moderate activity,” Biggs said. “This helps increase your intensity, strengthen your heart and the calories you are burning.” An example of this exercise is a one minute lower intensity jog, followed by a 30 second sprint, repeated for 6-20 times.
6. Rowing Machine – Biggs also suggests using this type exercise equipment at the gym because it gives you a full body cardio workout. You can set different resistance levels to increase your intensity. This machine is an effective aerobic workout because it conditions both the upper and lower body while raising your heart rate.
7. Inverted Jumping Jacks – Rome Tatum, another trainer at 12th Street Gym, suggested this workout which is similar to the traditional jumping jack, instead you scissor kick your feet front to back instead of side to side. Instead of swinging your arms overhead, Tatum said “you swing them in front of you, straight armed as if you were clapping, but instead cross your arms, then swing them back so you resemble the letter T. “ He says to start doing four sets of these for 20 repetitions daily.
8. Spiderman – This is another exercise Tatum recommends, where you crawl on the ground on all fours. “The key to these are to get low and when you crawl, attempt to speed it up to a scamper,” he said. “Crawl forward, sideways, backwards, constantly mix it up.” Tatum says this is a timed exercise, and you should try to do five sets for 30 seconds.
This exercise and the inverted jumping jack are both good for your heart because they use movement of the entire body, he said, which takes a lot of blood flow to accomplish. “These exercises make the heart rate rise to healthy levels that are needed in order for one to combat heart disease, plaque buildup, and other dangers to the functioning of the heart.”
9. Yoga – Biggs said yoga and other group fitness classes such as pilates and suspension training classes are good for your heart because they keep your heart rate up and allow you to work on your own body weight. “Classes are great for people who love a group atmosphere, which can help push you to work out harder,” he said. “If you find cardio on the boring side, classes help you with motivation and getting out of your normal cardio routine.”
10. Cycling – You can do this low-impact cardiovascular activity either by yourself at the gym, in a spin class, or outside on a bike. This exercise raises your heart rate while building strength and toning your lower body.