What are the best exercises for heart health?
by Douglas Ross on Sunday 15 October 2023
4 min read
How’s your heart health? Ask around and we’ll bet few of your friends know their resting heart rate. Even though the rate of Coronary Heart Disease deaths have dropped 86% since 1980, Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) still affects more than 4 million Australians and causes 1 in 4 deaths.
New treatments and greater detection and prevention are making a difference. But we can do more, and that’s where exercise comes in! For example, 36% of people 55–64-year old’s were estimated to be insufficiently physically active in 2020-21. Exercise dramatically reduces your risk of CVD, so let’s look at the three main exercise groups and how they help your ticker.
Aerobic exercises use large muscle groups repetitively and rhythmically. They increase your heart and breathing rates, enhancing your heart's efficiency and lung capacity. For aerobic exercises, aim for 50-70% of your maximum heart rate during moderate-intensity activities and 70-85% during vigorous-intensity activities.
To get you started, cycling and jogging are two great aerobic exercises. You can hit the pavement anywhere, or join a cycle class to get your heart rate up with others.
Walking is one of the best ways to start exercising more, improve your aerobic capacity and prepare for other types of exercise. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity each week. That’s just two 1-hour walks and a walk to the shops and back!
Another incredible gateway exercise, swimming saves your joints and is an easy way to get your heart rate up – all you have to do is swim harder! From getting Vitamin D to protecting you from colds, swimming is an all-rounder that’s great for the heart.
Nothing builds endurance, speed, coordination and general energy levels like boxing classes. And that’s not to mention confidence! A highly technical and really fun sport, you’re never bored when you box and your heart is working hard.
Strength training incorporates resistance (body weight, bands) or training with weights. This not only builds muscle but also increases metabolic rate and improves cardiac resilience. Two things to remember: always maintain a consistent breathing pattern to avoid straining the cardiovascular system and focus on your form! This prevents injury so you can keep on training. Typically aim to be at 50-70% of your max heart rate during strength training.
An incredible cross-trainer, kettlebells allow you to engage and focus on stabilising chains of muscles. Kettlebells are less about the weight you lift and more about building the endurance to perform reps for an extended period of time, safely and with good form.
These bodyweight exercises increase your heart rate, promoting better circulation and heart endurance. Basic moves include push-ups, squats, pull-ups, lunges, and jumping jacks. A great and safe way to start off a session or to recover from injury.
A great way to easily switch between isolating muscle groups or introducing larger muscle chains and stabilisers. Basic cable exercises include cable chest presses, rows, tricep pushdowns, face pulls, and cable rotations. Are you ready to blend strength training with heart-healthy benefits?
Stretching, strength and flexibility
Stretching or activities that might not directly stimulate the heart as aerobics do, will help overall circulatory health and smooth blood flow throughout your body. It's not about increasing your heart rate, but promoting overall wellness, mental health and flexibility.
Take your pick of disciplines, there’s no doubt yoga will improve your circulation and heart health. This mix of very mindful breathing while focusing on building your strength and stamina is great at lowing blood pressure and creating long-lasting benefits for your body and mind.
Similar to yoga, pilates shares a secret sauce for your heart: being a part of something larger than yourself. Connecting and sharing an experience with others are key determinants of health and wellbeing, and pilates can be a great way to meet people and connect.
So, what are you waiting for? There’s no wrong answer – any and all exercise will help build cardiovascular strength and endurance to have you bouncing at any age! Join us in your journey to better heart health with a free trial today!
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