The heart is a vital component of the human body. Without a functional heart, life is simply not possible. As with other muscles in the body, it is important to give the heart a workout to improve its strength and vitality. Intermountain Health says an individual who does not exercise is more than twice as likely to get heart disease as someone who does. UCI Health says heart disease is the number one cause of death worldwide.
Exercise is an ideal way to strengthen the heart and reduce your risk for heart disease and other conditions. Certain activities are prime for boosting heart health.
Aerobic Exercise: Aerobic exercise raises heart rate and gets the blood pumping throughout the body. Aerobic activity improves circulation, and over time it ensures the heart does not have to work as hard to pump blood, thus potentially lowering blood pressure. Also, aerobic exercise can reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes and can help those with diabetes to control blood glucose more readily. Aerobic exercises include brisk walking, running, swimming, cycling, playing tennis and other activities that get the heart pumping. Aim for 30 minutes each day, for at least five days a week.
Resistance/Weight Training: Building muscle can help the body burn fat and boost metabolism. This type of training can use weights or the body’s own resistance. Improving muscle mass while reducing body fat and excess weight are heart-healthy steps to take. Strength training can be incorporated into a routine two to three days a week.
Balance and Flexibility Exercises: A person may wonder what flexibility and balance has to do with heart health. While there isn’t a direct correlation to how the heart works, these types of activities will help reduce the risk of falls or injuries to muscles and joints while working out. Inactivity is dangerous for the heart, so ensuring that physical activity can continue is important. Flexibility and balance exercises keep the body limber, and can be incorporated into daily workouts. Stretching, tai chi, yoga and pilates can be included two or three times a week.
Healthy Eating: The foods people eat can affect heart health. Opt for lean protein sources and foods that include healthy fats. Salmon, avocados and olives are some options. Balance these foods with whole grains that are full of fiber, which can help a person feel fuller longer. Fiber also is essential for preventing atherosclerosis, a condition that causes hardening of the arteries.
Meditation: Slowing down, performing deep-breathing exercises and meditation can reduce stress. That, in turn, can help prevent damage to the heart.
Strengthening the heart and maintaining its health involves various activities that can be incorporated into daily routines.