Heart Health

February is Heart Health Month and we are taking a look at three different types of exercise to boost your heart health.

 Physical activity is one of the biggest steps you can take for a healthy heart. It’s one of the best tools you have for strengthening the heart muscle, keeping your weight under control and fighting off the artery damage from high cholesterol, high blood sugar and high blood pressure that can eventually lead to heart attack and stroke.

Different types of exercise are needed to provide complete fitness. Aerobic exercise and resistance training are the most important types for heart health.  And while flexibility doesn’t contribute directly to heart health, it’s still important as it provides good groundwork for performing aerobic and strength exercises more effectively.

 Read on to see how different types of exercise will benefit you!

 Aerobic Exercise

What it does: Aerobic exercise improves circulation, which lowers blood pressure and heart rate. It increases your overall aerobic fitness and it helps your cardiac output (basically how well your heart pumps). Aerobic exercise also reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes and, if you already live with diabetes, helps you control your blood glucose levels.

How much: Ideally, 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

Examples: Brisk walking, running, swimming, cycling, playing tennis and jumping rope. These types of heart-pumping aerobic activities are the kind your doctor has in mind when recommending at least 150 minutes per week of moderate activity.

Resistance Training

What it does: Resistance training has a positive effect on body composition. For people who are carrying a lot of body fat (including a big belly, which is a risk factor for heart disease), it can help reduce fat and build lean muscle mass. Research shows that combining aerobic exercise and resistance work may help raise HDL (good) cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.

How much: A good rule of thumb is at least two non-consecutive days per week of resistance training.

Examples: Free weights (dumbbells or barbells, etc.), weight machines, resistance bands or through body-resistance exercises, such as push-ups, squats and chin-ups.

Stretching, Flexibility and Balance

What they do: Flexibility workouts (stretching) don’t directly contribute to heart health. They do benefit musculoskeletal health, which keeps you flexible, free from joint pain, cramping and other muscular issues. Flexibility is a critical part of being able to maintain aerobic exercise and resistance training. As a bonus, flexibility and balance exercises help maintain stability and prevent falls, which can cause injuries that limit other kinds of exercise.

How much: Every day and before and after exercise.

Examples: There are so many basic stretches you can do at home, you can find DVDs or YouTube videos to follow.

As always – check with your Doctor before starting a new exercise program.


Laura Hobson