How Much Do I need to Exercise for a Healthy Heart?

As Valentine’s Day approaches, many of us are looking forward to the feeling of our hearts beating wildly in our chests. While we usually think of this as a good feeling, it’s not necessarily what we want to feel in our daily lives or any time we have to do moderate physical activity like taking the stairs.

By now, we all know that exercise is important to keep our hearts healthy and, in turn, keep our bodies able to do all the activities we want to live a full life. Generally, cardio, any activity that gets our heart pumping, is what we think of when it comes to heart health. But when it comes to your heart, some exercises are more effective than others. Here are some of the best ways you can exercise for optimal heart health.

Be Active Throughout the Day

Getting to the gym for an hour before work is good, but adding in small amounts of exercise throughout the day can make a big difference in your overall health. Activities you do every day, like walking around the grocery store, cleaning, and gardening, can all help your heart.

If you work in an office where you are sedentary most of the day, here are some ways you can try to get some activity into your schedule throughout the day:

  • Set an alarm to get up and walk around the building every hour.
  • Try some light stretches at your desk.
  • Try a standing desk to keep from sitting for hours at a time.
  • Look into under-desk bicycles that you can pedal while you work.
  • Take the stairs when you have the option.

Do Interval Training

Interval training is great for your heart! The idea of interval training is to combine short bursts of high-intensity activities with periods of recovery. You can try interval training with basically any exercise—walking, running, biking, swimming, etc. For example, if you want to try running, you may run for 3 minutes, followed by 5 minutes at a slower jog. Then repeat the cycle.

During your bursts of high-intensity activity, your heart rate speeds up; then, it recovers as you slow down. Practicing interval training can help make your heart more efficient. Studies have also shown multiple other benefits to interval training, like helping you burn more fat and increasing your metabolism.

Practice Yoga

At Zion HealthShare, we especially like yoga for a healthy heart. Yoga can reduce stress and have a calming effect, which lowers blood pressure and eases strain on your heart. Yoga is also great for improving strength, flexibility, and balance, all of which are important when you do more high-impact types of exercise.

Be Consistent

Cardiologist Dr. Ben Levine says he doesn’t care what kind of exercise his patients do as long as they’re getting out consistently and being active. Dr. Levine suggests exercising 4-5 days per week, but not every day should be a high-intensity workout. Combine moderate-intensity workouts with strength training and other activities you enjoy.

The most important thing to remember is that consistent activity helps your heart stay healthy.

Don’t Overdo It

The worst thing you can do for your heart is overwork it with a high-intensity workout before you’re ready. Start where you are, and don’t push yourself too hard if you haven’t exercised in a while. Consistent exercise will do more for you than doing a really hard workout once.

Remember, it’s good to feel tired and out of breath after exercise, but exercise should make your body feel good! If you are putting strain on your heart, slow down and take some deep breaths. You might even invest in a heart rate monitor to help you see how hard you’re working. Listen to your heart! That advice is relevant for more than just who you should ask to be your Valentine this year.

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