Did you know that the heart is a muscle? And just like other muscles, your heart needs exercise to stay healthy and strong. But how exactly does exercise impact your heart?
Cardiovascular exercise is any exercise that causes an increase in heart rate. An elevated heart rate means more blood is flowing to the heart at a faster rate. When this happens, the left ventricle (where blood flows into the heart) enlarges. This allows the heart to push more blood throughout the body, decreasing the number of times the heart needs to beat. In other words, your heart beats slower and more efficiently and works to lower the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and stress.
To maintain a happy and healthy heart, it’s important to perform cardiovascular exercise 2-5 times per week. In fact, the highly regarded American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Heart Association recommend that every older adult should perform cardiovascular exercise:
- Moderately for 30 minutes 5 days per week;
- Vigorously for 20 minutes 3 times per week;
- Or a mixture of vigorous and moderate cardio 3-5 times per week.
Below are five exercises you can do to maintain a happy and healthy heart.
Walking is a simple, low-impact workout that doesn’t require a gym membership or equipment.
Despite the ACSM’s recommendations, if you’re not used to exercising, it’s important to work your way up to the suggested 30 minutes. Start with 10 minutes of brisk walking per day and work your way up from there.
Not only is swimming important for heart health, but it’s also beneficial for lung and blood pressure health. You can participate in water aerobics or simply swim laps.
Start by swimming 10 laps and work your way up from there. It’s perfectly normal to take breaks in between laps, so don’t feel pressured to do more than you feel comfortable with.
Biking – especially indoors – is fantastic for reducing the risk of heart disease. According to Purdue University in Indiana, “regular cycling can cut your risk of heart disease by a whopping 50 percent.”
Bike for 20 minutes 3-5 times per week to help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Hiking, particularly uphill, will increase your heart rate and oxygen intake, resulting in improved cardio-respiratory fitness and muscular fitness. Hiking regularly can also lower your risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
From soccer to tennis, participating in a sport that requires a lot of movement can improve your heart health. Check out you local co-ed leagues. A lot of communities offer co-ed softball,, kickball, and volleyball leagues, all of which help get your heart pumping and help you to maintain a healthy heart.
Pro Tip: Something as simple as taking the stairs can do wonders for your heart health.
The right kinds of exercise performed properly and within doable limits can reduce the chances of heart-related incidents and improve your overall quality of life. Starting with just ten minutes of walking around the block can make a big difference!