Updated December 30, 2020
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.
While there are many different exercise options to help you travel the road to heart health, cardiologists encourage men and women of any age and fitness level to lace up their sneakers and simply walk.
It’s free, convenient and one of the most underrated exercises out there. People often think if they don’t have a gym membership or aren’t running 20 miles a week they aren’t doing their body any good, but that simply isn’t true.
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10 Benefits of Exercise for Your Heart
Aerobics include activities such as walking, hiking, dancing, swimming, playing sports, and biking.
While it’s recommended that you get at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week, doing as little as 10 minutes can lower your risk for heart disease. And these 10-minute segments add up. Take the stairs or a walk for 10 minutes during lunch. Go for a bike ride after dinner or perform jumping jacks or march in place during commercial breaks. The benefits of moving more are numerous and include:
- Strengthening the heart muscle.
- Better cholesterol – Improved HDL or “good” cholesterol.Lowering LDL or “bad” cholesterol.
- Lowering blood pressure.
- Improving your mood by reducing the risk or intensity of depression and anxiety.
- Supporting better sleep.
- Reducing stress.
- Improving balance and joint flexibility.
- Reducing inflammation – studies also have shown regular exercise reduces inflammation, which is associated with Type 2 diabetes.
- Slowing the aging process – increased blood flow improves the appearance of skin.
- Maintaining your weight and Body Mass Index (BMI).
Exercise for Beginners
If you are new to physical activity, start your regimen slowly and remember any exercise is better than no exercise. You can always progress your workout by going for longer walks, running instead of walking, or adding in other aerobic exercises. Discover what interests you – and there is plenty out there – so that you remain engaged and working out doesn’t feel like a chore. Whether its group classes or individual activities that motivate you, there is something for everyone.
Pacing your Heart
However, keep in mind that too much cardio, especially for people with pre-existing heart conditions, can exhaust and overuse the muscle. The ideal range to achieve maximum heart health benefits from aerobic exercise is between 50 and 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. Your ideal number depends on your age and the intensity at which you are exercising. To find your appropriate rate, subtract your age by 220. Stop exercising immediately if you experience:
- Chest pain
- A very fast or uneven/irregular heart beat
- Dizziness, light-headedness, or extreme fatigue
Take the First Step with Your Doctor
When it comes to exercise and choosing an activity that suits your lifestyle and limitations, keep in mind you should talk to your doctor first to determine your heart health and overall well-being. Always begin slowly and work your way toward increasing your time and intensity – whatever the exercise. Even breaking down your workouts into segments benefit your health. Moving more doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated and many forms of physical activity can be accomplished at any age or stage of life.
All exercise has its health benefits and you should not be intimated by it simply because it’s new to you or you are starting over. Lack of time, money or self-imposed labels are excuses that need to be taken out of the equation, because we’re all in charge of our personal health.
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. We strive to provide the most advanced, cutting-edge care for our patients, treating both common and complex conditions. We also offer services that seek to improve the health of our communities, including heart screenings, free clinics, and heart health education. Find an expert near you.