As a lot of you know, February is Heart Health Month. I have seen some incredible posts on the topic – but all too many of them have been about heart healthy foods. Which, YES is hugely hugely gigantically important! However, there are a ton of heart healthy exercises out there!!!
It is well known that at least 30 minutes of exercise a day will help keep the heart healthy. Most people also know that walking or running are the most common practices of heart focused workouts.. What a lot of people don’t know – is besides your typical cardio workout, there are TONS of other awesome exercises out there that people don’t even realize strengthen your heart!
- Swimming. Quite possibly the best exercise out there, for your heart. Swimming not only strengthens your heart, but it also sculpts your body – builds your stamina – and improves your body’s use of oxygen. Swimming allows your heart to work less strenuously, keeping it healthy while strengthening the muscle.
- Dancing. Let’s face it… The average person thinks of dancing as something fun (or miserable, depending on who you are) to do, not an exercise. But – truth be told it gets your heart pumping! That’s the beauty of dancing. It keeps your heart rate up while you’re having fun, letting loose, and losing yourself in the music. Some hospitals, even offer dance classes on a weekly basis.
- Yoga. ahh yes, yoga. Known to lower blood pressure, increase lung capacity and function, and improve your heart rate…. All while stretching and lengthening your muscles as well as building muscle. Yoga is known to over time improve your overall health.
- Play Tag With Your Kids. Tag is a blast, and kids are full of energy so chances are you tire long before them – making it a true workout! Not to mention the fact that it will raise your heart rate during the fun game.
- Jumping Rope. Every time I’m reminded that jumping rope is insanely good for you, 12 year old me dies a little because I used to love it SO MUCH. It strengthens your muscles, while refreshing and strengthening your heart like no other exercise! Practically all of your muscles are used when skipping rope… Infamous for revealing your weak spots and increasing your heart rate. It’s said that jumping rope for 10 minutes is the cardiovascular equivalent to roughly 30 minutes of jogging.
- Roller Skating. Another childhood favorite. I spent weekend after weekend at the roller rink with friends in middle school. Ahh, Evan Skateland – THOSE were the days. Both Inline and “roller” skating are known to lower blood pressure. Skating is known to be similar to jogging in cardiovascular exercise but a LOT lower impact. (Be sure to wear a helmet and pads!)
- Wii and/or Kinect Fitness Games. Needless to say, you get to play AND strengthen your heart. You can even play with your kids! Wii Boxing, Bowling, and Tennis are especially well known for raising your heart rate to aerobic exercise levels.
- Stair Climbing. For maximum heart health it is recommended to maintain 50-85% of your maximum heart rate. Climbing the stairs is a VERY easy way to reach that target heart rate zone… FOR FREE.
- Pilates. My personal favorite of the bunch (ok other than jumping rope, forever a 12 year old) Pilates is great for your body and heart healthy and strong. Stretching and Toning exercises assist in circulation, while increasing overall flexibility and defining muscles.
- Park in the Back of the Parking Lot and Walk: miles add up so much quicker than you realize! For an added workout – carry your groceries instead of getting a cart while shopping!
- Strength and Resistance Training. Your heart rate is elevated immediately after a workout, and is affected by the amount of resistance, the amount of repetitions, and the muscle mass involved in the contraction. There actually appears to be a reduction in heart rate from long term resistance training. Interestingly enough it also raise blood pressure depending on the length of the contraction and amount of resistance. However, short circuits are known to lower blood pressure.
- Give your house a good cleaning. I dare you to put your heart rate monitor on next time you do some serious cleaning. You will be amazed not only at the calories you burn, but your heart rate too! It raises it, but not to the point of over worked (unless you’re cleaning like a madman!) For an extra workout and a ton more fun – sing and dance while you’re cleaning!
With this being said, those of you with history of heart disease, high blood pressure, or simply haven’t exercised in a long time should consult a physician before starting an exercise program.
Every workout should consist of a warm up, a conditioning phase, and a cool down!