Your biceps and abs are not the only muscles that benefit from exercise; physical activity is critical to strengthening and protecting your heart muscle. Exercise helps prevent-and may reverse-certain heart conditions, such as high blood pressure and coronary heart disease.
Regular exercise increases the amount and rate of blood that our heart pumps through our body which improves circulation and helps our organs work more efficiently. Exercise has also been shown to improve mood and reduce stress, which can also have a positive effect on our heart and overall health.
Cardiovascular or aerobic exercise is one of the best types of exercise that we can do to strengthen our heart, as well as our lung capacity. There are many forms of exercise that increase your heart rate; examples include walking/running, biking, weight training, and playing sports. Strength training and stretching are also important components of a heart-healthy exercise routine.
The key to reaping the heart health benefits of exercise is to make it a habit! Find an activity that you enjoy and make it a priority in your life.
The recommended amount of weekly exercise for increased heart health is as follows:
- 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity such as walking briskly, cycling at a moderate speed, water aerobics, and house hold activities like mopping or vacuuming. Alternatively, you could do 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity such as jogging/ running, swimming laps, singles tennis, or playing basketball.
- On at least 2 days of the week incorporate strength training activities that target all of the major muscle groups such as your chest, back, arms, legs, abdominals, and shoulders. There are many forms of strength training such as using weights, resistance bands, kettle bells and medicine balls just to name a few. Building skeletal muscular endurance and strength aids us in performing aerobic activity. It also helps in the circulation of healthy blood throughout the body by allowing the transport of nutrients from the blood to be dispersed throughout the body.
If you are just starting an exercise routine, consider breaking up the activity into manageable amounts so it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. For example, take a walk or jog for 15 minutes, 2 times a day on 5 days a week-this will help you reach 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week.
Sources: World Health Organization, CDC, American Council on Exercise, American Medical Association, NIH, U.S. National Library of Medicine, American Psychological Association, HealthDay, Reuters Health Information, American Heart Association, Mayo Clinic, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Diabetes Association, USA Today, MedicineNet, The President’s Council on Physical Fitness & Sports, and Washington and Shady GroveAdventistHospitals. For additional information, consult your physician.