Improving heart health is not rocket science since many of the factors are within your control
High blood pressure and cholesterol, damaged arteries, and obesity—all of these could potentially lead to the number one cause of death in the world: heart disease.
Family history aside, your risk of getting heart disease increases as you age. Given that most heart diseases are within your control, keeping a healthy heart isn’t an unattainable task. Aside from self-discipline (proper diet, decent sleep, and a vice-free lifestyle), learning the right exercises for the most important muscle in your body can lower your risks. Not only do these simple workouts provide plenty of benefits for your heart, they’re also good for your physical and mental health.
Also known as cardio workout, aerobic exercises like brisk walking, swimming, cycling, jumping ropes, and dancing aim to increase your heart rate and make you sweat. This will improve blood circulation, which will result in lower blood pressure and heart rate. Cardio also reduces the risk of diabetes as it controls blood sugar levels. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults should do aerobics for at least two hours and 30 minutes a week, with intervals of 10 minutes or more.
Lifting weights and using your body weight for resistance can increase blood flow and may lead to longer-lasting blood pressure control. The main purpose of strength or resistance training is to build all your major muscle groups (arms, legs, hips, chest, shoulders, abs, and back) while helping you develop leaner muscle mass, which helps in controlling your weight. When combined with aerobic exercises, strength training can help raise good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol. The effects of strength training, however, depend on one’s body composition.
Squats, lunges, push-ups, resistance band workouts, planks, and other core-strengthening moves usually comprise any strength training program. The American Heart Association and CDC recommend resistance workout at least twice a week on non-consecutive days.
Here’s the catch: Flexibility and stretching don’t directly contribute to heart health. Its purpose is to help you get better at aerobic and strength training. Stretching can help improve musculoskeletal health—mainly in decreasing the chances of cramps, joint pain, and other muscular issues during workout. Flexibility exercises can also help maintain balance and prevent injurious falls. Note that this should be done before and after exercise. With good stability and flexibility, it’s easier to nail the necessary workouts that will benefit your heart. Tai chi and yoga are some of the most effective flexibility workouts.