One of the risk factors for heart disease is inactivity, so it’s important to become or remain active to lower your chances of developing the disease or to keep it under control.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week. The AHA also recommends performing physical activity in episodes of at least 10 minutes. You can start small and work your way up as you start to feel more comfortable. Just be sure to consult your doctor before starting any exercise program.
The best types of exercises to maintain heart health are aerobic exercises, which require the heart and lungs to work harder to compensate for the body’s increased demand for oxygen. Aerobic exercise also uses large muscle groups for extended periods of time.
These are some of the best exercises to keep your heart healthy:
Walking is the easiest aerobic exercise, and one that can be worked into even the most hectic schedule. You can walk indoors or outdoors, on a treadmill or track, or just up and down a flight of stairs. Experts recommend setting a goal of 10,000 steps a day or roughly five miles.
The easiest way to keep track of how many steps you’re taking is to use a pedometer, which should be clipped to your belt and positioned upright for the most accurate results. If you do minimal walking in a day, you can get in extra steps by:
- taking the stairs instead of the elevator
- parking further away from entrances
- taking a walk during your lunch break instead of staying at your desk
When starting a walking—or any type of workout—routine, remember that the level of intensity makes a difference. The key is to get your heart beating faster and speed up your breathing. Instead of walking at a leisurely pace, walk briskly to get the most out of your workout. Studies show that life expectancy increases by two hours for every hour of walking.
For those who want a little more intensity than walking but aren’t ready for running, jogging is an excellent medium. (To mix it up, you can switch between walking and running or jogging.) Like walking, jogging can be done indoors or outdoors. If the weather is bad or you can’t make it to a gym, you can always jog in place in your living room.
Like walking, cycling can be done indoors or outdoors, on either a stationary or mobile bike. As with any other aerobic exercise, the level of intensity is more important than the length of time. That means that if you can only cycle for five minutes at a high intensity, you’ll still get the benefits. There are a few ways you can get more out of cycling. Many stationary bikes allow you to change the incline, and a steeper incline will force your muscles, heart, and lungs to work harder. Many bikes also have different preset programs, so you can choose the best setting for your needs or create your own.
Swimming is also a good form of aerobic exercise, though it might be more difficult for those who don’t swim on a regular basis to maintain the right intensity for a half an hour or hour workout. However, the benefits are plentiful. Swimming works the heart and lungs, arms and legs, and other major muscle groups. It’s also easier on the body than many other exercises, which is beneficial for people who have arthritis or some other chronic condition. If you haven’t been in the water for a long time, start with five to 10-minute laps and work your way up slowly until you can swim uninterrupted for half an hour or an hour. Use a variety of strokes to work different muscle groups.
Elliptical (Cross Trainer)/Stair Climber/Step Machine
Each of these machines has benefits and drawbacks. Even at the lowest setting, they may be too intense for someone who doesn’t exercise regularly, so it’s best to start slow and figure out what’s right for you before committing to a full workout. There are a number ways you can customize your workout. Try increasing the incline, resistance, and speed for a more intense workout. Just remember to start slowly and work your way up.