The Best Exercises For Your Heart

water aerobics( — Whether you’ve gone for a run, a swim, and hit the weights, your body let’s you’ve know that you’ve gotten in a good workout. But…can you feel what else you’ve worked – like your heart?

Any time you exercise and raise your heart rate, you’re helping yourself get healthier. Different types of exercise help your heart:

1. Aerobic exercise

2. Strength-training exercises

3. Yoga or Pilates classes

How Aerobics Strengthen Your Heart

You may already know that aerobic exercise does the most to strengthen your heart and reduce the risk of heart disease.

“Aerobic exercise provides the best reduction of cardiovascular risk and has been studied extensively for its effects,” says Alfred Bove, MD, PhD, professor emeritus at the Temple University School of Medicine and past president of the American College of Cardiology. “Regular aerobic exercise reduces risk of sudden death from heart disease, improves outcomes from heart surgery, and lowers overall risk of heart disease.”

Aerobic exercise is any type of physical activity that increases your heart rate — think of exercises like running, brisk walking, biking, and swimming.

Beyond Aerobic Exercise

Is aerobic exercise and an increased heart rate all you need for a healthy heart and to prevent heart disease? Not necessarily. To get the greatest benefits for your heart, it’s a good idea to incorporate strength training into your exercise routine.

First of all, strength training offers benefits for health and well-being. “Resistance exercise provides benefits such as better bone strength, better balance, and some improvements in aerobic capacity,” says Dr. Bove. Strength training helps you stay leaner, and maintaining a healthy body weight is crucial for a healthy heart and to prevent heart disease.

Strength training may also have more benefits than once thought. Studies are now showing that strength training may directly improve cardiovascular health, helping to strengthen the heart. One small study conducted by researchers at the West Virginia University School of Medicine found that including weightlifting in an exercise routine helped to lower LDL, or bad, cholesterol levels by as much as 5 percent. The American Heart Association now recommends strength training as another form of exercise to help prevent heart disease and as a part of cardiac rehabilitation for those who have had a heart attack.

In addition to aerobic and strength exercises, yoga and Pilates classes can help the heart by reducing stress – a major, but often underestimated, contributor to heart disease.


Healthy Heart Exercise: How and When to Work Out

For a healthy heart, you should work out for about two and a half hours per week at a moderate intensity. For a greater challenge, you can opt instead for 75 minutes per week at a vigorous pace.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to work out so hard that you’re sweating profusely or gasping for breath in order to help prevent heart disease. “High-intensity exercise is not needed to improve heart disease risk,” says Bove. While high-intensity exercise improves overall conditioning and lowers heart risk, exercise at a more moderate intensity will still help to prevent heart disease and strengthen a healthy heart.

Not sure when you can fit in an hour or even 30 minutes at a time to exercise? You don’t have to. You can get the same heart-healthy benefits by breaking up your workout into short sessions — 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there.

If you’re new to exercise, you can start slowly and gradually build up the time and intensity.