4 Best Exercises to Boost Your Heart Health
Apart from transitioning to a whole-food, plant-based diet, being physically active is the most important step you can take towards protecting yourself from heart disease and stroke. Jesal V. Popat, M.D., FACC, a board-certified, nutrition-focused heart doctor in Tampa, addresses cardiac disease with a tailored diagnostic and treatment plan that often includes lifestyle changes, such daily exercise. The problem is most people don’t know how much or what kind of exercise they should be doing to improve their heart health.
In this brief article, we’ll review four of the best exercises you can do to boost your heart health, keep your weight under control, and ward off many complications like high blood pressure and high blood sugar that can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Aerobic exercise, also known as cardio, is defined as any type of exercise or physical activity that uses aerobic metabolism. This means oxygen is heavily involved in the cellular reactions providing your body with the necessary energy, making your heart more efficient and your lungs more equipped to take in more oxygen. Another way to think about aerobic exercise is to think of any type of workout in which your heart rate and your breathing increase, but not to the point where you feel like you need to stop and rest.
Over time, aerobic exercise will increase your stamina, heart and lung fitness, bone strength, and muscle strength. It may lower blood pressure and control blood sugar, as well as keep your arteries clear of plaque buildup. Examples of aerobic exercise include walking, running, swimming, playing tennis, jumping rope, and cycling. Ideally, you should engage in aerobic exercise at least thirteen minutes a day, at least five days a week.
Strength training, also known as weight or resistance training, is a type of exercise of physical activity designed to improve muscular fitness by exercising a specific muscle or muscle group against external resistance, including free weights, weight machines, resistance bands, or your own body. The basic principle involves applying a load and overloading the muscle so that it recognizes the need to adapt and grow stronger.
Similar to aerobic exercise, strength training helps improve blood pressure and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol. It can also help to reduce fat and create leaner muscle mass, thereby removing one of the top risk factors for developing heart disease. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least two nonconsecutive days per week of strength training as a good rule of thumb.
Stretching is more than simply a cool down with added flexibility benefits. In fact, stretching is no different from any other form of exercise, apart from the fact that it focuses on deliberately flexing or stretching a specific muscle or muscle group to improve elasticity and achieve comfortable muscle tone. If you spend a lot of time sitting or standing throughout your day, it may be beneficial to begin scheduling stretch sessions into your weekly routine.
There’s a wide variety of online resources devoted to the cause, but some of the most well-known stretches include the Butterfly Stretch and the Knee to Chest Stretch. Any number of these stretches will enable you to develop a strong musculoskeletal foundation capable of performing the exercises that directly contribute to your heart health. We recommend stretching every day before and after other forms of exercise.
Finally, there is interval training, a form of exercise that involves a series of high-intensity workouts interspersed with periods of rest or relief. While it sounds difficult, it’s actually as simple as alternating short bursts of intense activity with longer intervals of less intense activity. For example, you may walk for one to two minutes and then add short bursts of jogging for roughly 30 seconds.
Interval training is one of the most effective exercises for boosting heart health on this list because you’re constantly raising and lowering your heart rate. Over time, this will improve your vascular function, make your body more efficient at clearing sugar and fat from your blood, and burn calories. To reap the greatest benefits, we recommend doing interval training two to three days a week. For any assistance achieving your health goals, including incorporating positive lifestyle changes, schedule an appointment with Jesal V. Popat, M.D., FACC, a board-certified Tampa heart doctor.
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