Heart experts weigh in on the why’s and how’s of exercising to improve heart health
When you get your blood pumping during exercise, you are doing your body — and heart — good! Exercise benefits every muscle, including your heart, which is important to your overall health.
Reports show that people who don’t exercise are almost twice as likely to get heart disease as those who do. Exercise is good for your heart because it:
- Strengthens the heart muscle
- Lowers blood pressure
- Reduces LDL “bad” cholesterol
- Increases HDL “good” cholesterol
So, how do you start reaping the benefits of exercise if you are new to it or haven’t been doing it regularly?
Tara Mudd, APRN, electrophysiology nurse practitioner with Norton Heart Specialists, says to do it slowly so you don’t lose momentum.
“Getting fit can be a really overwhelming thing for a lot of people,” Mudd said. “Often, they try too much too soon, get discouraged and stop the routine, putting them right back where they started.”
Lucky for you, there are many activities out there to help you introduce exercise into your day-to-day routine. From boot camps to Pilates, Zumba to cycle, high intensity to yoga, the options are endless.
However, knowing what works for you in your health journey is important to staying safe while getting healthy.
For example, a recent study made headlines suggesting you can get the same benefits from just one minute of high-intensity interval training as 45 minutes of moderate exercise. While the science behind it may be accurate, it isn’t a one-size-fits-all fitness solution.
Mudd and her cardiologist partners caution newcomers or people with heart conditions against these sped-up, high-intensity workouts, instead suggesting a combination of aerobic exercise and light strength training with a gradual buildup in weight and intensity.
Introduce these cardiologist-approved workouts into your daily routine to improve your heart health:
Cardio or aerobic exercise: These activities get your blood pumping and increase your heart rate. Go for a run, ride your bike, dance or take a brisk walk. When done at an increased tempo, aerobic activity has a lot of positive benefits for your overall health. Be careful to not overdo it. A good rule of thumb is whether you can hold a conversation. You should be able to speak a somewhat complete sentence while exercising.
Strength training: Use weights or your own body weight to build muscle and core strength, as well as a strong heart. Hand weights, weight machines or exercises such as yoga, pushups, pullups and planks will do the job. Strength training should be done two or three times a week.
Stretching: Gentle stretching before and after exercising can help lengthen your muscles, improving flexibility, balance and posture.
“In addition to the heart-healthy benefits, engaging in regular exercise also can aid in the prevention and treatment of Type 2 diabetes and reduce inflammation,” Mudd said.