3 Types of Exercise That Boost Heart Health
Written by: Gemma Oberholzer, Wellbe&Co Founder & CEO
Movement and physical activity is one of the key contributors and determinants of good heart health. Studies have shown how exercise is one of your most effective tools for strengthening the heart muscle, assisting with healthy weight management, and helping prevent arterial damage from high cholesterol, high blood sugar and high blood pressure that can lead to heart attack or stroke.
Here’s how the different types of exercise can benefit you and your heart.
- What it does: Aerobic exercise (or what most of us know as cardio) improves blood circulation, which results in lowered blood pressure and heart rate. In addition, it increases your overall aerobic fitness which positively impacts your cardiac output or how well your heart pumps. Through its positive effects on blood sugar control, aerobic exercise has also been shown to reduce risk or the management of type 2 diabetes.
- How much: 30 minutes a day, at least five days a week.
- Examples: Moderate heart-pumping exercise such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, aerobics classes, playing tennis, padel and skipping.
- What it does: Resistance training’s heart health benefit comes from the effect it has on body composition and weight. For those carrying extra body fat (including the unhealthy belly fat which is a risk factor for heart disease), regular strength training can help reduce fat stores and promote healthy and metabolically active lean muscle mass development. Research shows that a combination of aerobic exercise and strength training may help raise HDL (good) cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.
- How much: At least two to three 30-min sessions per week.
- Examples: Training with free weights such as hand weights, dumbbells or barbells, on weight machines, with resistance bands or through body-resistance exercises, such as push-ups, squats and pull-ups.
Stretching, Flexibility and Balance
- What they do: Flexibility workouts don’t directly contribute to heart health in the same way that cardio and resistance training do. However, their benefit arises from the role they play in ensuring musculoskeletal health and longevity, which enables you to stay flexible and free from joint pain, cramping and other muscular issues. This in turn enables you to consistently participate in the other heart health promoting exercise type, injury free. As a bonus, flexibility and balance exercises such as yoga have also been shown to promote more mindful movement and so help reduce stress and anxiety.
- How much: Daily as well as before and after other exercise.
- Examples: Your doctor, qualified fitness trainer, physiotherapist or biokineticist can recommend basic stretches you can do at home. Tai chi and yoga also improve these skills, and classes are readily available in almost all cities and towns.
Get in contact with the Wellbe Team today if you need any help putting together a fitness plan to optimise your heart health!