In addition to a healthy diet, reducing stress and quitting smoking, you can improve your heart health with regular exercise. Your heart is a muscle, and walking, biking, swimming, skating, dancing or more intense exercise can improve your heart’s ability to function.
The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise (like brisk walking) per week, or 75 minutes of vigorously intense cardio exercise (such as cardio machine workouts), to maintain your heart health.
More intense aerobic exercise, which keeps you sweating and breathing hard throughout the workout, also helps raise your “good” cholesterol, reducing your risk for coronary heart disease.
A good rule of thumb for exercise is to maintain an intensity comparable to a brisk walk if you’re new to exercise, and to take the “talk test” if you’re in better shape—if you can’t talk, you’re working too hard and may end up quitting. You should be sweating and breathing hard during aerobic workouts, but able to speak.
If you have access to a heart rate monitor, exercise at 50% – 65% of your maximum heart rate if you’re a beginner, and 70% to 80% of your max if you’re doing aerobic exercise.
Where to buy heart rate monitors.
Even if you can’t get outside for exercise, consider moving while you watch TV in the evening. Try these activities while you watch television, switching from exercise to exercise to reduce fatigue, pain and boredom:
- Jogging in place
- Walking in place with high knees and arm swings
- Jumping jacks
- Skipping rope
- Hula hooping
- Riding a stationary bike or your road bike on a bike stand/trainer
- Using dumbbells or exercise bands
- Walking up and down stairs
- Gliding on a smooth surface with back-and-forth leg movements
- Squats, lunges, burpees, calf raises, situps and crunches
Create a circuit-training workout doing any four exercises for 30 seconds, then taking a break for 2-3 minutes before starting another circuit.