Six exercises to improve heart health
Monday, February 10, 2020
February is heart health month and we'll be focusing on six exercises that will help you improve heart health and cardiovascular fitness.
Before we get into the exercises, all Montage Wellness Center members can participate in our 100-mile challenge this month by tracking your miles through different qualified hearth health exercises to earn a special prize. Check in with the front desk for more information.
February's tip: Choose a mode of exercise that you enjoy and are capable of doing without injury or pain and follow these easy steps:
- Commit to 30 minutes, five days a week
- Build up to 1 hour, five day per week
- Incorporate a variety of exercise types
- Don’t forget to include some weight training
Running and walking
A steady run may be the number one way to stay in shape. If your joints can’t handle the impact forces of running, walking can be just as good. Try using a treadmill at an incline to realize the benefits of running, but at a walking pace. Introducing intervals will push your cardiovascular fitness to the next level. Intervals involve changing the intensity to a level that is difficult enough to get out of breath, then a minimal rest period that is just long enough to recover, and then repeat this process. Adjust the intensity with inclines and/or pace. Do the intervals first before steady state cardio, and you will deplete some of the glycogen or carbohydrate stored in the muscle, which allows you to tap into stored fat more readily for a weight loss and improved body fat percent effect.
Any repetitive movement is an effective way to promote heart health. One of the best types of exercises techniques to increase your cardiovascular fitness is circuit training with higher intensities. This increase in blood flow challenges the arterial walls which improves elasticity and leads to improved cardiovascular fitness. Think higher intensity with minimal rest periods, and alternating between upper and lower body exercises for maximum results.
- 3 minutes bike
- 10 push-ups
- 10 lunges
- 10 crunches
- Repeat for 20-40 minutes
Weight training is often overlooked, but is critical for heart health. In addition to increasing muscle mass, it helps burn fat, increases bone density and is good for your heart. Increasing strength capacity requires proper progressions. This is where a good personal trainer can help. Using the proper load, choosing the right exercises in the correct order, determining the number of repetitions and sets, along with the time under tension and work to rest ratios, will optimize this most effective, yet most misunderstood training mode. Then the challenge becomes implementing a proper progression. To get the most out of weight training, we recommend investing in a personal trainer that specializes in strength training to get it right. They can help you design a personal strength program and you'll save yourself a lot of time and mistakes. The goal is to plan a more effective training plan and get better results.
The key is to move from one side to the other. Stationary aquatic exercises or leisure swimming is a good start for injured or unfit populations, but you need to incorporate a progressive movement in order to realize heart and lung benefits. Try progressing from 8-12 lengths of the pool (down and back = 1 lap) per swim technique. For non-swimmers this can include shallow lane running or walking. Anyone can make the pool work for heart health. Use fins, kickboards, and different movements to assist or challenge your movement. Pools are a good tool for reducing impact forces especially for individuals that may be overweight or injured. Change your movements to avoid repetitive movement injuries.
A large study done by the British Medical Association showed that regular cycling can substantially reduce your risk for coronary heart disease. The study found that cycling as little as 32 kilometers (20 miles) a week reduced the potential to develop heart disease by 50 percent. Because cycling utilizes large muscle groups in the legs to elevate your heart rate, it not only improves cardiovascular fitness, but it also burns lots of calories, and has even been shown to improve mental health. Cycling is a good alternative to running for individuals that experience pain from the impact forces associated with repetitive foot strikes. Elliptical and striding machines have a similar benefit to cycling.
Yoga and Group Classes
You don't have to do high intensity exercise to improve your heart health. In fact, if you’re unfit, introducing high intensity exercise too soon can be hazardous (individuals experiencing heart attacks after shoveling snow is an example). Yoga, Tai Chi, and other moderate intensity classes are great for developing strength and muscle mass, and your heart rate is typically elevated during these classes. Exercise for muscle tone, and new movement patterns will slowly improve cardiovascular capacity and improves heart health.