Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your overall health. It strengthens your heart and increases its efficiency, reduces your risk for heart disease and other chronic conditions and can boost your mood. Your exercise program should include both aerobic and strength training exercises to improve your heart and cardiovascular function.
Strength and Efficiency
Exercising at the proper intensity challenges your heart muscle, which helps it become stronger. After a period of exercise training your heart grows stronger and is able to pump more blood with each beat. This higher stroke volume -- the amount of blood pumped by each heart beat -- allows for a lower heart rate both while at rest and when you exercise at or below 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. Because of this increase in efficiency, your heart is able to meet your body’s demands for oxygen-rich blood with fewer heart beats.
Heart Disease Risk
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, 150 minutes of exercise each week can reduce your risk for developing heart disease by 14 percent. Exercising beyond this amount can reduce your risk even further. Exercise not only strengthens your heart but also improves other aspects of your cardiovascular health. For example, regular exercise improves blood flow, improves cholesterol levels and aids in blood pressure control. Include weight control as an additional benefit and regular exercise is a must-do to improve major risk factors for heart disease.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise on five days each week. A moderate-intensity level means noticeably increasing your heart rate while still being able to carry on a conversation. If you are trying to lose weight, try to increase your aerobic exercise time to between 60 and 90 minutes on most days. Strength-training exercises should also be included in your workout routine to promote a healthy heart.
Talk to your doctor before beginning a new exercise program if you have been inactive or if you have a condition that affects your ability to exercise. Start slowly and gradually work your way up to the recommended amount of exercise. Aerobic exercises include walking, running, cycling, dancing and swimming and strength-training exercises include lifting weights, using resistance bands and body weight exercises such as pushups. Staying consistent with your exercise routine will promote a stronger, healthier heart.
- Harvard School of Public Health: Staying Active
- "Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition and Human Performance"; William D. McArdle, et al.; 2007
- Harvard School of Public Health: Heart Disease: A Little Exercise Goes a Long Way
- American Heart Association; Physical Activity Improves Quality of Life; 2011
- American College of Sports Medicine; Physical Activity and Public Health Guidelines; 2007
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Growing Stronger - Strength Training for Older Adults: Why Strength Training?; 2011
- Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.