10 Fun Heart Healthy Exercises
Be sure to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program, especially if you’ve had a sedentary lifestyle or if you have heart-health issues or other health problems.
- Walking is a weight-bearing aerobic exercise that’s also very affordable — the only thing you need is a good pair of sneakers. And you can walk pretty much anywhere, whether you’re taking a stroll outdoors around the neighborhood or on a treadmill indoors. Did you know: On average, every minute you walk extends your life by one and a half to two minutes.
- Swimming is a great aerobic exercise to incorporate into your fitness routine. The advantage of water-based exercises is that they don’t stress your joints. Did you know: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, swimming is the second most popular sports activity in the United States.
- Cycling is an excellent type of cardio exercise that greatly benefits your heart without putting stress on your back, hips, knees, and ankles. Did you know: According to Bikes Belong, a bicycle-industry group, the health benefits of cycling are 20 times greater than the safety risks.
- Zumba, the Latin-inspired dance-fitness program, is a great cardio workout. You can burn as many as 1,000 calories in an hour-long Zumba class if you really move to the music and get your heart pumping. Did you know: Zumba was created in the mid-1990s when fitness instructor Alberto “Beto” Perez went to teach a group aerobics class and forgot his music. He improvised, using the salsa and merengue tapes he had in his backpack, and a craze was born.
- Jumping rope is a terrific aerobic exercise. It not only burns lots of calories, but is also a great way to improve your coordination. Plus, a high-quality jump rope is an inexpensive piece of exercise equipment that can last for a long time. Did you know: Jumping rope involves almost every muscle in your body.
- Inline skating is a low-impact aerobic activity that not only strengthens your heart muscle, but also improves your lung capacity and can help you lose weight. Just be sure to wear properly fitting skates and protective gear. Did you know: Sixty minutes of inline skating burns almost as many calories as running, according to the American Council on Exercise.
- Yoga combines stretching, breathing, and relaxation — all of which can benefit your heart. Stress is a major risk factor for heart disease, but practicing yoga regularly can help you reduce stress and lower your risk for heart disease. Did you know: Yoga is thought to have started in India approximately 5,000 to 6,000 years ago.
- Resistance bands help to stretch and tone your muscles. Attach them to furniture, door knobs, or chairs and then stretch out the bands. Make a routine of pulling them down, using them to rotate your shoulders, and while extending your arms and legs. Did you know: A small study from the University of Valencia showed that for sedentary middle-aged women, resistance bands may be just as valuable as weight machines when training to get back into shape.
- Weight training can increase the high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol, in your blood that helps protect your arteries from plaque buildup. If you’ve never lifted weights, start slow, Decker advises. A personal trainer can show you how to use proper form. Did you know: Free weights build muscle mass faster than weight machines. That’s because your muscles must balance free weights on their own, without assitance from the machine.
- Interval training is an ideal cardio exercise because it combines aerobic and anaerobic exercise, Decker says. Interval training involves alternating short bursts of intense activity, such as sprinting, with a less-intense form of the same activity, such as jogging or walking. Next time you’re walking outdoors for exercise, try sprinting from one streetlight to the next and then walking until you reach a cross street. Then do it again. Did you know: People in Sweden refer to interval training as fartlek, which means “speed play.”