Your heart is arguably one of the most important muscles in your body. And like any other muscle, it requires regular exercise to stay healthy. If you’re searching for heart-healthy workouts to improve your overall health and wellness, here are seven of the best types of exercise you can do.
What are the benefits of having a healthy heart?
Ensuring your heart is as healthy as possible is always in your best interest. A healthy heart will:1
- Lower your risk for heart attacks
- Reduce your risk of stroke
- Help prevent heart disease
- Reduced risk of cardiovascular-related death
How does exercise affect heart health?
Regular exercise strengthens your heart and reduces your risk of heart disease. On the contrary, being sedentary can result in cardiovascular damage.
When you exercise consistently, you also improve your cardiovascular health in other ways, such as by improving good cholesterol levels, reducing blood pressure, improving blood flow and circulation, and maintaining a healthy weight.
Although some factors like age and genetics are beyond your control, eating a healthy diet and exercising can drastically improve your heart health. If you want to improve your heart health but are unsure what exercises to do, below are a few heart-healthy workouts recommended by health and wellness experts.
7 Best heart-healthy workouts
Walking is one of the best and easiest heart-healthy workouts. Not only is it extremely flexible (you can do it anywhere, at any time), but you also don’t have to invest in a ton of gear to get started. All you need is a solid pair of tennis shoes, and you’re good to go!
Walking, especially quickly, will increase your heart rate and get your blood pumping to improve circulation. It can also help you maintain a healthy weight without being too hard on your joints. Plus, you reap the same benefits whether you walk indoors on a treadmill or outdoors.
And another added benefit: walking is an easy exercise to fit into your daily routine. Whether you walk first thing in the morning, on your lunch break, or after dinner, making walking a regular part of your day is easy.
Biking is a fun and low-impact exercise that anyone can enjoy. It’s one of the best heart-healthy workouts because it stimulates and improves your heart, lungs, and circulation, reducing your risk of cardiovascular diseases. Research also indicates it lowers your resting pulse, reduces blood fat levels, and strengthens your heart.2
Cycling is also easy to fit into your regular daily routine. Whether you bike indoors with Vingo, cycle to work every day, or explore your local parks by bike, this type of exercise is also a lot of fun!
You don’t have to be a marathon runner to reap the benefits of this heart-healthy workout. According to WebMD, running for just 10 minutes a day can significantly lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and reduce your risk of dying from heart disease by 50 percent.3
Running also lowers your resting heart rate, improving your heart’s efficiency and your overall health and fitness.
Strength training with weights or your body weight is excellent for the heart! Even small bursts of strength training can provide tremendous benefits. One 2019 study in Medicine and Science in Sports Exercise found that lifting weights for less than an hour a week can reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke by 40 to 70 percent!4
Weight lifting also improves your circulation, which allows your body to receive adequate oxygen and nutrients. And it can prevent cardiovascular events like heart attacks and strokes, even if you’re not regularly doing cardio workouts.
Strength training will also help you cut back on belly fat, also called visceral fat, associated with cardiovascular disease. By reducing the visceral fat surrounding your heart and internal organs, you’ll cut back your waistline and build lean muscle for a slimmer, toner build, and a healthier you!
With HIIT (high-intensity interval training) exercises, you can improve your cardiovascular health with short, intense workouts instead of long, drawn-out trips to the gym. According to Harvard Health Publishing, several studies show HIIT workouts can result in equal or greater blood pressure and blood sugar improvements compared with moderate-intensity workouts.5
Another great benefit of HIIT is that you can build it into your current workout routine. Whether you prefer to walk, run, bike, lift at the gym, or do bodyweight exercises, you can incorporate HIIT exercises.
Although it’s a full-body workout, swimming works the heart and lungs, teaching your body to use oxygen more efficiently. Like walking, it’s also easy on your joints and muscles, and your risk of injury is very low.6
Swimming is also one of the best stress-relieving heart-healthy workouts due to the sound and feel of the water surrounding you. The resulting stress relief may also contribute to better cardiovascular health in many individuals.6
And, of course, individuals of all ages and abilities can swim. All you need is access to a pool or natural body of water.
Yoga is an excellent heart-healthy workout that lowers your blood pressure and heart rate and improves cholesterol and blood glucose levels. Researchers also found that the waist circumference and blood measurements of middle-aged adults with metabolic syndrome, which increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, improved after three months of continuous yoga practice.7
Key Takeaways:Heart-healthy workouts like running, cycling, HIIT, walking, strength training, swimming, and yoga can improve your heart health and reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. You don’t have to exercise for hours a day to reap the benefits, either. Just a moderate weekly amount of these exercises will provide incredible results.
- Rice, A. (2020, August 18). Keeping Your Heart Healthy. familydoctor.org. https://familydoctor.org/keeping-heart-healthy/
- Cycling – health benefits. (n.d.). Better Health Channel. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/cycling-health-benefits
- WebMD Editorial Contributors. (2021, April 7). Health Benefits of Running. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/health-benefits-running
- Liu, Y., Lee, D., Li, Y., Zhu, W., Zhang, R., Sui, X., Lavie, C. J., & Blair, S. N. (2019). Associations of Resistance Exercise with Cardiovascular Disease Morbidity and Mortality. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 51(3), 499–508. https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0000000000001822
- Corliss, J. (2021, December 1). High-intensity exercise and your heart. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/exercise-and-fitness/high-intensity-exercise-and-your-heart
- Harvard Health. (2009, May 1). Take the plunge for your heart. https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/take-the-plunge-for-your-heart
- The Yoga-Heart Connection. (2021, December 2). Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-yoga-heart-connection