The Best Exercises for Your Heart

You’re probably seeing a lot of news about heart health—February is American Heart Month after all. But while some of the advice you’ll hear is clear (like that it’s good to eat more blueberries, spinach and salmon), other tips can be vague. For example, one of the most heart-health-related recommendations is to stay active, but what does that really mean?

According to the American Heart Association, being active means moving your body and burning calories for a specific amount of time each week. Primarily, that means participating in cardio workouts, which increase the amount of oxygen in your blood and helps blood pump more efficiently—two keys to keeping your heart healthy.

How long you need to exercise depends on how hard you’re exerting yourself. To get in your recommended workouts each week, adopt one of the following routines:

  • Do 150 minutes of moderate cardio activity a week (you can break this up into 30-minute workouts, five days a week). Moderate cardio activity includes a brisk walk around your neighborhood at a three-mile-per-hour pace or biking slower than 10 miles per hour.
  • Do 75 minutes of vigorous cardio activity a week (you can break this up into 25-minute workouts, three days a week). Vigorous cardio includes a high-intensity session using a rowing machine, biking 10 miles per hour or faster, running six to seven miles per hour, swimming laps at 30 to 50 yards per minute or hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack.

Monitoring your heart rate can also help determine the intensity of your workout. You can check your own rate following the American Heart Association’s guidelines or with certain fitness trackers. And while cardio is king, relaxing activities like yoga and meditation can also help improve your heart health by reducing stress.

As always, make sure you check with your doctor before starting any kind of exercise routine.

Photo credit: Ben Bradshaw

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