After just one single session of exercise, you give yourself immediate and clinically significant protective effects against heart disease.
But of course, to maintain these effects and see further improvements, you need to keep exercising on a regular basis. Multiple sessions every week will provide strong protection against many cardiovascular diseases and other conditions while also giving you various benefits.
Here are three of the best exercises for optimal heart health:
Endurance exercises (also called aerobic exercise or cardio) are all about getting your heart rate up and expanding your breathing capacity, typically for an extended period.
Some of the best endurance exercises for heart health are:
- Brisk walking
- Running or jogging
- Yard work
- Stair climbing
These activities will improve blood circulation, lower blood pressure, and help your heart and lungs work more efficiently.
Health guidelines generally recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity endurance exercise every week, though more is even better.
Strength training (also called resistance exercise) is any type of exercise that works your muscles against some form of force.
This can be done with free weights, weight machines, resistance bands, or your own body weight. Common strength-training exercises include:
- Bodyweight squats
- Grip strength exercises
These activities will not only help you burn fat and build muscles, they can also be very good for your cholesterol levels. Uncontrolled cholesterol levels can lead to a buildup of plaque in your arteries, which can eventually cause atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes.
The American Heart Association and other health organizations recommend at least two strength training sessions every week. Each session should aim to involve all of your major muscle groups.
Balance, Flexibility, and Mobility Training
This category can involve a wide range of activities, such as:
- tai chi
- standing on one leg
- sitting on an exercise ball
- heel-to-toe walking
- range of motion exercises
Although these exercises may not have as direct an effect on heart health as endurance or strength training, they are still important for overall physical fitness and preventing injuries. They’ll help keep your joints and muscles healthy, improve your balance and coordination, and increase your range of motion.
Ideally, you should aim for a combination of all three types of exercise to get the most benefit for your heart health. But if you’re just starting out, any type of exercise is better than none.
No matter how old you are or your current fitness level, adding more movement to your life is nearly always a good idea. Sitting too much and living a sedentary lifestyle is one of the worst things you can do for your heart and your overall health and well-being.
You don’t have to become a marathon runner or a world-class weightlifter. Just find some heart-pumping activities you enjoy and make them a regular part of your week. Every little bit counts!