February is American Heart Month, a federally designated event to remind Americans to focus on their hearts and encourage them to get their families, friends and communities involved. A great way to keep your heart healthy is by exercising. Exercise not only strengthens the muscles in your body, but it also helps your heart muscle become more efficient and better able to pump blood throughout your body.
How Physical Activity Benefits the Heart
Physical activity can benefit your heart in many ways, including:
- Lowers blood pressure
- Weight control
- Helps strengthen muscles
- Help you quit smoking
- Stop or slow the development of diabetes
- Lowers stress
- Reduces inflammation
The American Heart Association recommends that a person gets at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity.
Exercises for Heart Health
There are several different types of exercise that a person can benefit from when it comes to heart health, including:
Aerobic exercise is any type of cardiovascular conditioning that gets your heart rate up and benefits your heart by improving cardiorespiratory fitness. Common cardiovascular exercises include brisk walking, running, swimming, cycling, and rowing. Benefits of aerobic exercise include:
- Improves blood volume, distribution and delivery to muscles
- Improves cardiovascular efficiency
- Lower your blood pressure and cholesterol
- Helps decrease the risk of developing coronary artery disease, cancer and diabetes
- Increases cardiac output, or the volume of blood pumped by the heart each minute
If you aren’t interested in long-distance running and cycling, resistance training may be a great option for you. Resistance training is a form of exercise that is designed to improve muscular fitness by exercising a muscle or a muscle group against external resistance. Common resistance training exercises include squats, lunges, deadlifts, pull-ups, push-ups, and bench press. Lifting weights has been shown to improve circulation, reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke, improve quality of sleep, and fight belly fat, all of which benefit your heart.
Believe it or not, stretching can improve your heart health. According to new research from the University of Milan in Italy, a 12-week stretching regimen improved vascular function and arterial remodeling, and arterial stiffness decreased in all the arteries. Maintaining healthy blood and oxygen flow throughout the body allows the lungs, heart and muscles to function properly and efficiently.
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