4 Heart Healthy Exercise Types That Keep You Fit
In the present day, the number of heart disease-related deaths is increasing at an alarming rate. In the United States, one person suffers from a heart attack every 40 seconds on average.
We often hear that employees with desk jobs are at risk of heart disease. Opting for poor lifestyle choices is the primary reason behind it. Long work hours and stress are two factors that working individuals can seldom escape. Many employees also suffer from burnout and heart-related troubles due to such factors.
Are you worried about developing heart disease? And are you keen on trying a heart-healthy lifestyle? If so, then you have landed in the right place.
Keeping your cardiac muscles in good condition involves mainly two factors - a healthy diet and regular physical activity. As the title suggests, you will learn about heart healthy exercise here. Before that, let's understand the importance of a healthy heart.
Why should you have a healthy heart?
To have a healthy heart means to have good health overall. The heart is one of the five organs that is vital for survival. It carries out a wide range of functions - delivering oxygenated blood to every body part, carrying the deoxygenated blood back to the heart, circulating hormones, and so on. Below mentioned are some of the reasons why having a healthy heart is essential.
1. Regulated blood pressure levels
Maintaining a balanced blood pressure level is necessary to save yourself from the possibility of heart attacks. An average adult should have a blood pressure of 120/80 mm/Hg.
2. Good mental health
There is a two-way relationship between mental health and heart health. Individuals who have poor heart health tend to show signs of depression. At the same time, patients suffering from depression become more prone to heart disease.
You are bound to have healthy blood pressure when you have a well-functioning heart. This again lowers the release of the stress hormone cortisol. This hormone is directly linked to cases of heart attacks.
3. Better memory
A healthy heart leads to a good blood circulatory system. A study shows that a heart with improper blood flow is one of the primary causes of dementia in older age. With poor heart health, there is decreased blood flow into the temporal lobes, which are responsible for encoding memories.
This indicates the importance of maintaining good heart health.
4. Regulated blood sugar levels
There is a direct connection between blood sugar levels and heart health. If you can keep your heart healthy, your blood sugar levels remain controlled. The life-threatening effects of high sugar levels are well known. Hence, safeguarding your cardiac health is paramount.
Exercises to improve your heart health
There are 4 types of exercises known to reduce the risk factor of cardiovascular diseases.
1. Aerobic exercise
The term "Aerobic" means any activity that requires the consumption of oxygen. Aerobic exercises are categorized into parts - low-intensity exercises and high-intensity exercises.
Low-intensity aerobic exercises involve brisk walking, swimming, cycling, and Zumba. High-intensity aerobic exercises involve jogging or running, jumping rope, and hiking.
Now that you know the different forms of aerobic exercises let us dive into the section on how to practice them.
i. Brisk walking:
Brisk walking is when you are walking faster than your usual speed. And how to find out you are walking at the required speed? There are 3 foolproof ways to make sure you are brisk walking - measure your target heart rate, count your steps, and take the talking test.
Target heart rate: The target heart rate range varies according to age. To calculate your target heart rate, subtract 220 from your current age and multiply the value by 0.5.
The end value is the target heart rate that you should attain while brisk walking as per your age. This value is the minimum target heart rate. To calculate the maximum target heart rate, subtract 220 from your current age and multiply the value by 0.85.
Step count: Research suggests that taking 100 steps per minute is considered brisk walking. You can install a fitness tracking app on your smartphone or wear a fitness band to keep track of your step counts.
But, if you are not physically active, taking 100 steps in a minute may wear you out. In this case, you can opt for the talking test mentioned below.
The talking test: During brisk walks, you should be able to talk with ease without having to catch your breath. If you have difficulty talking while walking along with some breathlessness, you are walking faster than required.
To get the best out of brisk walking, practice this exercise for at least 30 minutes per day and 5 days a week (if possible).
To reap the benefits of swimming, you should practice this exercise 30 minutes a day. If you are new at this, you can start off with this activity for 5 - 10 minutes. You can gradually increase your duration of swimming.
Apart from the above, strengthen your heart muscles with other swimming activities such as water aerobics and aqua walking.
Cycling is another low-intensity aerobic exercise popular for its overall health benefits. To enjoy the maximum benefits of cycling, you must do it the right way.
How to perform cycling correctly:
- Maintain a good posture - shoulders at the back.
- Keep your elbows slightly angled.
- Hold the cycle handles with a light yet firm grip.
- Stretch your neck and keep your chin down.
- If you are taking up cycling as an activity for the first time, start with this exercise for only 15 minutes. You can gradually increase the duration as required.
It is to be noted that one can practice both indoor and outdoor cycling. For those who wish to try outdoor cycling, pay heed to safety etiquette. This includes wearing a helmet and cycling gear and following the traffic rules as applicable.
Zumba is a mixed form of dance that comprises Salsa, Merengue, and Flamenco music. It is a full-body workout but is more enjoyable than a regular workout routine. This activity combines low and high-intensity dance forms; it is the smartest way to keep your heart healthy.
Note: If you have heart-related conditions, you should consult your doctor before starting Zumba.
Running is a physical activity that has always been related to maintaining good heart health. This exercise is known to strengthen your heart muscles. During a run, the heart pumps at least 25 liters of blood per minute, while at rest, it only pumps 5 liters of blood per minute.
It is worth mentioning that increased blood circulation leads to better oxygen supply throughout the body. In addition to this, all the body organs rejuvenate and function better.
Experts suggest that one should run for 30 minutes a day. Try to incorporate running into your daily routine for 3 to 4 days a week for best results. If you have no or less running experience, you can do it once a week and gradually increase the number of days.
Working individuals can practice running 30 minutes a day during the week off. Make sure you run at a controlled pace. Breathe in through your nose and mouth, and breathe out through your mouth while running.
Running, however, has a downside too. Doctors say that for some, running long distances and for long durations may lead to the development of heart issues. This is the perfect example of 'Doing anything in excess is harmful. In case you feel any discomfort while running, consult your physician for advice.
vi. Jumping rope
Jumping rope is another high-intensity aerobic exercise known for its cardiovascular benefits. Jumping rope rigorously for only 10 minutes a day is more than enough to enjoy its health benefits. Nevertheless, this activity is not suitable for people with joint pain issues.
Getting a jumping rope that suits your body size is mandatory to enjoy its benefits. How to find the perfect length of the rope? Follow this standard formula: Add your height (in cm) to 92 cm. The result will give you the appropriate length of the rope.
How to check if you have the correct rope length?
- Hold the handles of the rope with both hands. With one foot, step on the rope, and bring the other foot closer. Now, pull the rope up towards your chest.
- If the rope, excluding the handles, reaches upto the lower portion of your chest, you have the correct rope length.
How to practice jumping rope properly?
- Hold the handles with each hand and place the rope behind your body. Position your feet in front of the mid-section of the rope.
- To do the swing, move only your wrists and not your arms.
- As the rope swings over your head and comes to your feet in front, do a small hop. This way, the rope ends up at the starting position. Lift your heels and jump off your toes when you perform the hop.
- Maintain a controlled pace while jumping.
Pro tip: If you keep looking at your feet while jumping, you will lose your balance. Keep your eyes straight and forward.
Hiking is an outdoor activity that only a handful of people will choose actively. Its health benefits are undeniable. Harvard research suggests that hiking has stress-relieving effects. Other than this, you also get to enjoy a full body workout (including the cardiac muscles) out in the wilderness during hiking.
Hiking is something that every person should try. If you haven't tried this activity yet, try joining hiking groups on your next holiday. The clean and fresh air and the adrenaline rush will surely refresh your mind and body.
For successful hiking, wear durable and comfortable shoes, an outdoorsy outfit, and a backpack to keep essentials such as a first aid kit, water bottle, towels, energy bars, and a portable battery charger.
2. Resistance training
Resistance training, popularly known as strength training, is a different approach to maintaining a healthy heart. The different types of resistance training that you can try are :
- Push up
- Sit up
- Free weights
You can kickstart the day at home with the above-given exercises. And as for exercising with free weights, it is something working individuals can practice at their workplaces too. How? You can carry out free weight exercises using water bottles and even with flower pots if possible.
The American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control emphasize that one should practice resistance training exercises two days every week. Ensure proper posture to avoid muscle strain and injury while carrying out these exercises.
Yoga is an exercise that engages both the mind and body. It is a great way to calm your nerves, hence known as a stress-busting exercise. Yoga involves a number of breathing exercises that promote optimum oxygen supply to the muscles, soothing the mind. Furthermore, yoga also helps you gain flexibility and maintain muscle health.
Easy yoga asanas that boost your heart health are:
i. Janu Sirsasana (Head to knee pose):
- Sit with your legs in front of your body. Keep your back upright.
- Bring your right leg up close to your inner thigh, bending your knee.
- For the other leg, keep your feet upright with your heel touching the ground.
- Keep your spine straight up and breathe in. Place your right hand on the outer part of your left thigh. Keep your left hand behind your hip on the left side.
- Breathe out and bend your upper body, leaning towards your left leg. Try to hold your left foot as you lean forward.
- Breathe in when you lean forward and breathe out while rotating your right rib over the left leg.
- Breathe in as you lean backward and return to starting position.
- Now, repeat this on the other side.
ii. Utkatasana (Chair pose):
- Stand straight with your feet side by side and a few inches apart.
- Keep your hands on the side of your body, and your palms should face the inside.
- Breathe in and lift both your arms. Make sure your arms position slightly in front of your ears. As you do this pose, keep your palms open facing each other, and you can also join them.
- Breathe out and bend your knees in a way that the position of your thighs is parallel to each other and the ground. Keep the back straight, and lean forward a bit.
- Keep your shoulder and backbone straight. Move your body downwards, directing the tailbone towards the ground. Hold this yoga pose for at least 30 seconds.
- Breathe out as you straighten your knees and bring your arms back to starting position.
iii. Balasana (Child's pose):
- Kneel down and keep your knees hip apart. Sit on your heels, and place all your toes together.
- Breathe out, move your upper body forward and bend. During this, position your torso in between your thighs. Keep your palms open and place them facing down.
- Extend your backbone away from the body as much as possible. And move your chin inwards slightly so that the base of your head lifts from the neck.
- Hold this pose for 30 seconds at once.
- To retrieve, extend your torso forward. Breathe in and lift your upper body, starting from the tailbone.
iv. Savasana (Corpse's pose):
- Lie down with your upper body facing up the ceiling. Keep your legs at shoulder width apart.
- Position your hands on both sides of your body, palms facing up.
4. Taking the stairs
Climbing the stairs is undoubtedly one of the easy ways for office-going employees to stay fit. Even research suggests that taking the stairs is effective for maintaining overall health, including cardiac health. Take the stairs and avoid the elevator at your workplace to keep your heart strong and healthy. This activity also contributes towards NEAT, which further helps in burning calories.
How do heart healthy exercises help you?
- Performing heart healthy exercises allows the heart to pump blood seamlessly. This, in turn, helps regulate blood pressure levels.
- Working a desk job makes a person prone to weight gain. We all know excess fat is harmful as it may lead to heart blockage in the long run. The development of heart blockage is linked to heart attacks. This is where heart healthy exercises come to the rescue, allowing you to manage weight gain and, as a result, keeping you away from heart blockage.
- Increased blood sugar is a precursor of heart issues. Including exercises in your daily routine helps in controlling blood sugar levels.
- Exercises cause your body to release happy hormones, also known as Endorphins. These hormones promote happiness and keep stress away.
To stay fit and healthy, incorporating smart lifestyle choices is a must. Practice any one heart healthy exercise given above and reduce your chances of developing cardiac issues. As you carry out these exercises, remember not to wear yourself out. After all, too much exercise is also bad for your health.
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