Maybe you meticulously plan your workout regimen; maybe you’re more of a ‘little bit of this, a little bit of that,’ kind of exerciser, or maybe you just get moving in whichever way suits your mood that day. No matter how you prefer to work out, cardiologists agree there are three heart-healthy workouts you should always have in your workout regimen: aerobic activity, strength training, and flexibility. But why?
Aerobic activity has long been associated with good heart health. In fact, the Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) recommends adults aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise — or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise — weekly.
But what is it and why? Aerobic activity raises your heart rate so blood can get to important areas of your body faster in response to the increase in activity. This can strengthen your heart and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.
One way to tell if you’re working at a moderate-intensity level is if you can still talk, but not sing. Examples of moderate-intensity activities include:
- brisk walking
- water aerobics
- riding a bike
- doubles tennis
- pushing a lawnmower
On the other hand, vigorous-intensity activity makes you breathe hard and fast. Most moderate activities can become vigorous if you increase your effort.
Examples of vigorous activities include:
- riding a bike fast or on hills
- walking up the stairs
- sports, like football, basketball, soccer and hockey
- martial arts
Not only can aerobic activity strengthen your heart and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, but it has also been found to help improve cognitive function, activate your immune system, and improve your mood.
In addition to the aerobic activity guidelines above, DHHS also recommends doing strength training exercises for all major muscle groups at least twice a week. These activities often involve lifting relatively heavy objects, such as weights, multiple times to strengthen various muscle groups. But if lifting weights sounds daunting or downright dangerous, don’t worry, muscle-strengthening can also be done by using elastic bands or body weight for resistance.
If you’re asking how increasing your strength benefits your heart, the answer lands in longevity. When sustained over several years, resistance training leads to an increase in lean muscle mass and a decrease in age-related fat distribution, and it has also been shown to lower blood pressure.
Looking for some examples of great muscle strengthening exercises or workout plans? Take a look at a few great articles we’ve written on the subject:
- Fit After 40: Guys, Learn How to Get Back to Fitness Basics
- How to Maintain a Gym Body from Home: Strength Training
- How to Maintain a Gym Body from Home: Full-Body Workout
Now if you’re really scratching your head on how flexibility can benefit your heart, you’re not alone. But flexibility and mobility are vital for heart health in more indirect ways. Stretching, flexibility and balance exercises activities enhance the ability of a joint to move through the full range of motion. This can help prevent injury and falls, helping you maintain mobility to go out and keep doing all the physical activities you love.
And believe it or not, flexibility plays a very important role in even the smallest daily activities. Flexibility helps to prevent everyday injury:
- Muscle and disk strains that occur when turning over or getting out of bed
- Shoulder strains that result from doing tasks that involve lifting
- Backaches due to transitioning from a seated position to standing
- Bending down to pick something up (or starting the lawnmower)
- Walking up and down a flight of stairs
For these reasons, flexibility activities round out this ‘Big 3,’ even though their direct health benefits are unknown.
Looking for some inspiration? We’ve got you covered with the following articles:
- How to Maintain a Gym Body from Home: Yoga & Stretching
- Fit After 40: How Men Can Improve their Flexibility as they Age
Anything that gets you moving is a good step in the right direction to keep your heart health and overall health in good condition, but adding aerobic activity, strength training and flexibility to your physical activity can help you make the most of those movements. The more you can round out your workout the better.
Need a bit more guidance? Texas Health Fitness Centers powered by FX Well offer every new member a complimentary fitness assessment, movement screen, and personal training session to help you get started. In addition, there are 40+ virtual classes a week, a Digital Fitness App with a new bodyweight and in-gym workout posted daily, a variety of 30, 60, and 90-day custom programs built to help you achieve your goals, in-body body composition testing, and more!
As always, speak with your health care provider before increasing activity level or intensity of your workouts.