The heart is one of the strongest muscles in your body and works continuously throughout your life. However, like any other muscle, your heart will begin to weaken if you don’t work at it. But if you exercise your heart regularly, you can keep it strong and healthy for a long period of time. But before you embark on any physical activity, talk to your doctor about getting a fitness evaluation. If you have a heart condition or a family history of heart disease, you can take a simple stress test to determine the level of physical activity that’s right for you. Here’s how you can go about keeping you heart healthy.
Choose Activities You Enjoy
Any good exercise plan has to have two components to it: cardiovascular activity and strengthening exercise. Aerobic exercises impact your cardiovascular system and result in increasing your heart rate which essentially means your heart has to pump more blood to keep up with the activity you’re doing.
Some of the most popular aerobic exercises include:
Elliptical at the gym
While there is a range of exercises to choose from, choose one that you like rather than going for the latest exercise fad. When you like the exercise, there is a greater probability of you sticking to it.
Strengthening exercises are exercises that use some form of resistance that result in a breakdown of the muscle tissue. Muscles grow bigger and stronger when your body starts to rebuild broken muscle tissue. Exercises that build strength include:
Set Your Goals
Most people think that exercising is too much work. But the truth is that maintaining your health does not require so much effort.
The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity). This means all you need is just 30 minutes a day of moderate activity every day.1
You can easily achieve this by going for a 15-minute walk in the morning and evening or just biking around the neighborhood to do your chores.
While this is the bare minimum you need to do, adding strength training to the mix can help you maintain your muscle mass and bone density.2 Again, this does not mean spending long hours in the gym. Doing strength-training exercises at least twice a week should have you covered. While you’re at it, make sure you work on each of the major muscle groups like legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms for a well-rounded workout. Do at least 3 sets of each exercise, and within each set, repeat each move until it’s hard to do. Here’s a sample full body workout you could start with.
- Barbell Bench Press (Medium Grip): 2-4 sets, 10-12 reps
- Dumbbell Bench Press: 2-4 sets, 10-12 reps
- Bent Over Barbell Row: 2-4 sets, 10-12 reps
- Barbell Curl. 2-4 sets: 10-12 reps
- Dips – Triceps Version: 2-4 sets, 10-12 reps
- Hanging Leg Raise: 2-4 sets, 10-12 reps
- Barbell Squat: 2-4 sets, 10-12 reps
- Standing Calf Raises: 2-4 sets, 10-12 reps
If you’re not one to pump iron, you can take up group fitness classes, do yoga, or just start gardening in your backyard. Doing some amount of activity is a positive step and the more you do it, the better it is for your heart health. By adding variety to your activities, you not only can improve your health but also have fun while doing it.
Track Your Heart Rate
Another important aspect of heart health is your heart rate. By monitoring your heart rate, you can be sure if you’re doing the right thing. You can measure your heart rate just by counting the beats of invest in a simple heart rate monitor and app to make it more convenient. So how do you know what your target heart rate should be? There’s a simple way to calculate the ideal heart rate target for your age.
- The first step is to know your maximum heart rate. It is roughly 220 minus your age.
- If you’re 20 years old, your maximum heart rate is 220 minus 20 which is 200 beat per minute.
- For someone who is 30, it is 190 beats per minute, and for a 40-year-old, it’s 180 beats per minute.
- Your target heart rate for exercise should be within the range of 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.
You can’t keep monitoring yourself all the time when you’re exercising but there’s an easy way to know if you’re exercising at the right level for your heart. If you’re able to exchange pleasantries with an exercise buddy, but not carry on a lengthy discussion, you’re at the right beat rate.
Numerous studies have found that regular exercise will help lower your blood pressure which, in turn, reduces the risk of stroke and heart attack.3 So start by taking small steps towards keeping your heart healthy.
You can do that with a 10 to 15 minutes brisk walk every day and slowly increase your time and pace over the next few weeks. Your overall health is a sum of many small changes you make and habits you build. Whether it’s staying hydrated, eating more whole foods, or dedicating time every day for exercise, everything makes a difference in the long run.
If you have health conditions like osteoporosis, arthritis, blood pressure, or bone/muscle related injuries, consult your healthcare provider about taking the necessary precautions or finding alternatives to stay active and fit.
|↑1||American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults. American Heart Association. 2017.|
|↑2||Layne, Jennifer E., and Miriam E. Nelson. “The effects of progressive resistance training on bone density: a review.” Medicine and science in sports and exercise 31, no. 1 (1999): 25-30.|
|↑3||Whelton, Seamus P., Ashley Chin, Xue Xin, and Jiang He. “Effect of aerobic exercise on blood pressurea meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials.” Annals of internal medicine 136, no. 7 (2002): 493-503.|