Like any other muscle in your body, your heart needs exercise to stay strong and healthy. Studies have shown that people who perform a regular amount of physical activity each week are nearly half as likely to develop heart disease compared to people who are not active at all. Getting into a regular routine that incorporates physical activity and mobility is essential to keeping your heart healthy.
So what kind of workout is best for your heart? Although exercises like lifting weights are necessary for building a fit body, aerobic exercises that get the heart pumping are much more beneficial for your cardiovascular system. The best part is, anyone can do it. Aerobic activity can be as intense or as mild as you prefer it to be.
Aerobics – which are sometimes just called “cardio” – include activities such as walking, hiking, dancing, swimming, playing sports, and biking. Your body reaps numerous benefits from aerobics, such as burning calories, increasing stamina, boosting your immune system, and improving your overall mood. Cardio workouts are best for your heart because they:
- Help lower blood pressure
- Reduce risk of heart disease and stroke
- Decrease LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and boost HDL (“good”) cholesterol
- Increase oxygen in blood and strength the heart
If you are new to physical activity, start your regimen slowly and remember any exercise is better than no exercise. A 30-minute, brisk walk once a day can make a world of a difference for your heart. You can always progress your workout by going for longer walks, running instead of walking, or adding in other aerobic exercises. If you are looking to improve your heart health, experts suggest working out at least three times a week at high intensity or five times a week at low intensity.
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However, keep in mind that too much cardio, especially for people with pre-existing heart conditions, can exhaust and overuse the muscle. Always consult a doctor before beginning an exercise plan. Also, stop exercising immediately if you experience:
- Chest pain
- A very fast or uneven/irregular heart beat
- Dizziness, light-headedness, or extreme fatigue
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The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute has long been a leader in cardiovascular care, with a rich history in clinical research and innovation. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the country and as the developer of one of the first heart-assist devices, UPMC has contributed to advancing the field of cardiovascular medicine.