You probably know that exercise is a key factor in cardiovascular fitness…but may wonder exactly what kind of exercise is most helpful.
Exercise falls into two main categories. “Aerobic exercise and resistance training are the most important for heart health,” says Johns Hopkins University exercise physiologist Kerry Stewart, EdD.
Aerobic exercise anything—brisk walking, running, swimming, cycling and jumping rope are all examples—that gets your heart rate up. It improves circulation, supports how well your heart pumps and helps reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.† You should get at least 30 minutes a day, at least five days a week.
Resistance training covers anything that helps strengthen the body, such as working out with weights (free or machine) or even your own body weight. These activities can help reduce fat and create leaner muscle mass†; try for at least two non-consecutive days a week (to give muscles a chance to recover).
What’s more, Stewart adds, “Although flexibility doesn’t contribute directly to heart health, it’s nevertheless important because it provides a good foundation for performing aerobic and strength exercises more effectively.” Stretch every day before and after other forms of exercise; tai chi and yoga also fall into the flexibility category.
To help your heart stay healthy, create an exercise program using some combination of the following. For safety’s sake, start slow and build mileage and/or intensity as you become fitter.
And not a slow amble, either: Walking at speed is a great way to strengthen your heart while putting less stress on your knees. (On the other hand, distance running on pavement can really tax your joints.) All you need is a pair of good shoes, professionally fitted for best results: Try for short walks at lunch with longer strolls on weekends. To maintain interest, find a walking buddy or listen to music or a podcast along the way.
Swimming or Biking
These are also ways to get your heart pumping without beating up your joints. If you’re a pool baby, you can either swim laps or take a water aerobics class. If you prefer cycling, make sure your bike—and your bike helmet—fit you properly, and use reflective clothing or tape (plus clearly visible head and tail lights) for night rides.
Also referred to as high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, this involves alternating between short bursts of high-intensity exercise with longer periods of active recovery; think running full-out for half a lap followed by jogging for a full lap. Raising and lowering heart rate like that helps to burn calories and improve blood-vessel function.†
Don’t want to pay gym fees or buy equipment? Exercises such as pushups and squats, which use your own body weight, provide the resistance in resistance work without the expense…and pose less of an injury risk to boot. They also help you maintain healthy bones.†
It isn’t just good for flexibility, either. Yoga helps strengthen and tone muscles while promoting the kind of calm that helps lower blood pressure.† What’s more, the more vigorous types of yoga also provide aerobic benefits.
†The information provided is not an endorsement of any product, and is intended for educational purposes only. NaturesPlus does not provide medical advice and does not offer diagnosis of any conditions. Current research on this topic is not conclusive and further research may be needed in order to prove the benefits described.
The conditions and symptoms described may be indicative of serious health problems, and therefore should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare practitioner.
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**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.