Heart-Healthy
Fitness Tips

The heart is like every other muscle in your body -- it needs regular exercise to stay healthy and strong. However, that doesn't mean working out like an Olympic athlete every single day. In fact, your heart benefits from any type of exercise. Keep reading to learn how exercise boosts your heart-health and the best workouts to tune up your ticker.

Friends running in health club

How exercise helps your heart

Believe it or not, every time you exercise you change the health of your heart.

Exercise makes your heart more efficient. When you work up a sweat, you condition your heart to pump blood more effectively and at a faster rate. In the long run, doing all sorts of activities from walking to running up a flight of stairs will not only benefit your heart, these activities will become easier over time.

Exercise lowers your resting heart rate. A healthy heart doesn't need to beat as many times as a heart that is impaired. The beats of strong hearts circulate more blood per pump than unhealthy hearts. The healthier the heart, the fewer beats per minute when the body is at rest.

Exercise makes your heart stronger. Like lifting weights to get great biceps, working out strengthens your heart so it can pump more blood -- and therefore more oxygen -- to your body's organs.

Exercise will add years to your life. Exercise and a healthy heart can help stave off dozens of conditions like heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer. Exercise also helps reduce the bad cholesterol in your blood.

How to exercise for heart health

Research shows couch potatoes are twice as likely to develop heart disease and other heart complications than their oft-moving counterparts. The good news is it's easier than you think to get enough exercise to boost your heart's health.

How long and how often should you exercise? It only takes 2-1/2 hours of exercise every week to improve the health of your heart. That translates into 20 to 30 minutes of exercise every day. The good news is you can break up the recommended amount of exercise into 10-minute segments throughout your week. If, for example, you take a morning walk and then walk after dinner, your heart will still benefit from the cumulative exercise you've done. As an added bonus, exercise will help you tone up, burn fat and even lose weight (in conjunction with a healthy diet).

How hard should you be working out?

The rule of thumb for heart-healthy exercise is to work out at about 60 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. That means you should be able to carry on a light conversation without gasping for air throughout your workout. But, if you are able to talk up a storm, you should probably gab less and move more.

The best kinds of exercise for heart-health

Any physical activity that gets your heart pumping benefits your heart, but the general rule is to do activities that are cardio-intense; for example, anything from cycling and running to swimming and playing tennis. Additionally, lighter activities, like walking or golfing, can also improve the health of your heart by helping to reduce stress levels.

For more ways to keep your heart happy and healthy check our SheKnows.com's special heart-health channel: www.sheknows.com/channels/heart-health.htm.

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