Some of the best choices for workouts and exercises that can help keep your heart fit and healthy can be very fun and also very challenging. Eating healthy and working out to decrease stress combined with lots of water and ample sleep are all solid foundations to a healthier heart. Without including physical activity to the list, you can dramatically decrease the benefits so it’s vital to add some type of exercise to your daily routine. I often see people who cut out salt and sugar from their diet, add more produce and eat more lean protein but yet they keep struggling with health issues and can never reach their ideal weight. These are all signs that you need to get off your butt and start moving and sweating!
The first thing anyone can easily implement is beginning a basic walking program. If you have medical issues or injuries that don’t allow you to walk for fitness then try to find alternative ways to get some activity into your life such as taking water aerobics classes with an instructor. Working out in the water is excellent for people with knee, ankle and hip issues.
For those already active, it’s time to kick your training up a notch. Increase the repetitions in your weight training routine and use larger muscle groups with compound exercises. If you currently do basic single joint exercises like biceps curls, chest flyes and tricep pushdowns, try adding in some free weight movements like squats, bench press and lunges. These will help activate multiple joints which leads to more muscles being used and larger increases in strength and lean muscle mass.
Add intervals of cardio exercise in between your sets of weight training or try “giant sets” with your exercises which means doing 2-3 exercises back-to-back without any rest. By pushing yourself to work harder and get a little bit out of breath while your heart is pounding more than normal when doing your weight training workouts can be very beneficial in helping to strengthen this important cardiac muscle. Another idea is to try circuit training with timed exercises versus counting reps. Try doing a specific exercise for a set number of seconds or minutes and really push yourself.
If you don’t like going to a gym then take your training outdoors. Hiking not only increases your heart rate, but as you increase in elevation, you start training your body to work with less oxygen which makes your cardiovascular system more efficient. You may initially feel a bit heavy or out of breath for the first few sessions but then as you progress it becomes easier because your body is adapting to the new stimulus. The heart loves having the ability to uptake oxygen efficiently.
Take your workouts underwater. Make it a fun game and try diving into a pool for things on the bottom of the pool floor. Holding your breath for longer periods of time results in better oxygen use. Doing laps are excellent as they train muscular endurance and your cardiovascular system. For those of you who prefer the more shallow end of the pool, try exercises like treading water and running under the water. These are all excellent ways to boost your overall cardio and heart health.
Jumping rope is an amazing all-around cardio exercise. Being as rigorous as it is will most certainly take you to upper limits and give your heart a workout. It takes a lot of cardio endurance to get through a 45 minute jump rope cardio workout. If you want to kick it up even further, try adding in some burpees to the mix. Jump rope for 2-3 minutes straight and then drop down and perform 10 burpees in a row. Do 5 sets of these and see how you feel after!
Whether you are sedentary and just thinking about trying out new activities or if you are looking for a real challenge and need to get to a higher level of overall fitness, keep your heart health in mind with your training routine just as you do with the rest of your lifestyle in order to hit it from all angles (diet, cardio, strength training). The balance between these factors is the key toward reaching your goals and succeeding with your fitness plan. If planned correctly, your program should fit well within your daily lifestyle and be as automatic as brushing your teeth. It’s important to get active at any stage of your life because it all counts and does make a difference so get out there and kick some butt!