It’s no secret that exercise is good for your heart. The Cleveland Clinic specifies a number of specific benefits from regular exercise, including:
- reducing your risk of dying from heart disease
- improving the efficiency of your heart and cardiovascular system
- decreasing the symptoms of heart failure and angina (chest discomfort)
- improving your heart disease risk factors
- helping to control weight and reduce body fat
However, many people don’t enjoy some of the more common forms of exercise, such as running, swimming, or biking. If you don’t like doing something, you’re less likely to stick with it. If you struggle to find a physical activity that makes you want to return to it, maybe you need to try something different.
There’s no limit to the types of fun ways you can get a workout when you have an adventurous spirit. However, if you have a heart condition or risk factors for heart disease, you may be uncertain of what’s safe for you. It’s important to talk to your doctor before trying any of the following exercises, which can be much more strenuous than other types of workouts.
Kayaking provides an active water adventure and an aerobic workout wrapped in one. When you kayak, you sit atop or inside a floating hull, using a two-bladed paddle to propel across the water. While kayaking can be done on white water or even in the ocean, beginners can enjoy gliding across the glassy water of a gentle lake or lazy river. You can decide how intense you want your adventure to be.
Another benefit of kayaking is that you can do it solo or with a partner. Single, double, and even four-person kayaks are available, so you don’t have to go it alone unless you want to.
The main strength to power a kayak comes from rotating your torso and applying pressure with your legs, which makes kayaking an excellent form of cardiovascular fitness. Additionally, it’s an effective full-body muscle strengthener, as it works your arms, shoulders, back, torso, and legs.
Indoor Rock Climbing
For a safer variation of standard rock climbing, try hitting the climbing gym to try indoor rock climbing. Indoor rock climbing gives you many of the same physical challenges and as scaling an actual mountain, but because you’re in a controlled, supervised environment, novice climbers can exercise in a safe and enjoyable way.
Here’s what to expect: the workout comes from working your way up a climbing wall, which is an artificial structure that consists of shaped climbing holds that are attached to the wall’s surface. Before starting, participants are secured to a climbing rope with a safety harness. A second person stays on the ground to secure the climber’s safety by controlling the tension of the rope.
Climbing engages all muscle groups simultaneously, and also improves your balance and mental control. Most climbing facilities have trained staff on site to teach beginners “the ropes,” and climbing gear is generally available for rent or purchase.
If you want to experience a high-spirited interval workout with a twist, Piloxing may be for you. Piloxing allows you to feel the power and agility of boxing without the risk of a broken nose. It combines Pilates and boxing moves in a unique, safe fitness program that has gained worldwide popularity.
Piloxing is taught in a motivating class format and delivers a fun yet challenging core-focused cardio workout. Participants use weighted gloves and boxing movements to tone the arms, while incorporating the sculpting and flexibility of Pilates exercises.
If you want to bring the benefits home, you can modify many of the moves from a class setting to practice on your own. While classes generally provide weighted gloves, you can try the same routines in your living room using standard half-pound wrist weights, available at many athletic stores. To make the most of home workouts, try to keep moving from one exercise to the next, resting only when you feel tired.
If you want a workout that’s hard not to enjoy, try Zumba. It’s a fitness program based on easy-to-follow dance moves that you do to the beat of Latin music. If you think that sounds too fun to be fitness, think again: Zumba routines combine interval training and resistance training, which is achieved through alternating fast and slow rhythms. Zumba is generally taught in a group setting, such as at a gym or community center.
The Mayo Clinic emphasizes that proper technique is key to effective exercise. It’s important to avoid getting so swept up in the rhythm and beat that you forget to use good form. Ask your instructor for pointers on form if you’re uncertain about how to do a particular move.
While some research suggests dance-based aerobic workouts such as Zumba can increase your cardiopulmonary endurance when done at moderate intensity and duration, what’s important is that if you’re having fun with Zumba, you’re more likely to do it regularly. And that’s what can make the difference in your heart health.