There are certain types of exercises that can greatly assist in keeping your heart healthy and strong. Cardiovascular disease is a major cause of death in Australia, so it’s important that we take care of our heart as best we can. After all, we only have one!
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) refers to a class of diseases that involve the heart and/or blood vessels (i.e. arteries). The main types of CVD in Australia are coronary artery disease, stroke and heart failure/cardiomyopathy. Less common forms include rheumatic and congenital heart disease.
By recognising the warning signs and symptoms and seeking medical care promptly, you may be able to avert or reduce the severity of a heart attack or stroke.
Cardiovascular exercise and strength training is a great way to keep our heart healthy and strong. Here are six easy exercises to assist with this:
- Brisk walking
- Weight training/circuit training
Carve out a spare 30 minutes in your day and take a walk up the street. Even better, take a dog for a walk in the park! A good
30 minute stroll is all it takes to get theblood flowing and heart rate elevated. Even better, find a hill with a steady incline to help make it that little bit harder, your heart will thank you for it.
Weight Training / Circuit Training
Weight training is critical for people with heart disease. In addition to building muscle mass, which will help you burn fat, weight training is also good for bone health as well as your heart. When it comes to deciding what type of weight training to do, using your own body weight can be extremely effective. The challenge is incorporating proper progression. Adjust the tempo/speed of your movements to increase the difficulty. For example, once you can do 20 push ups with ease, challenge yourself by slowing down and counting to four as you raise yourself up, and then again as you lower yourself down.
A steady run is an excellent way to stay in shape, but running intervals will really push your cardiovascular fitness to the next level. Whether it’s sprints or hill climbs, all you need to do is 10 seconds at a time. Ideally, keep the intensity for a full 10 seconds, and ensure you go all out. Start with four 10-second intervals per workout, eventually working your way up to doing it 10 times. I recommend doing the intervals first, so not only do you have the energy to do them, but this type of training will deplete some of the glycogen or carbohydrate stored in the muscle, which will allow you to tap into stored fat more readily – awesome!
Tip: Work hard enough to get out of breath and then take whatever minimal rest period you need to recover, before you do it all again!
You can do this outdoors on your own bike, or in the gym on a stationary bike. Regular cycling can substantially reduce your risk for coronary heart disease. Studies show that cycling 32km every week can reduce the risk of developing heart disease by a whopping 50 per cent! Cycling uses large muscle groups in the legs to elevate your heart rate, which helps to improve your cardiovascular fitness while also burning calories. It’s even been shown to improve mental health – bonus!
You don’t have to be doing activities of high intensity to increase your heart health and, in fact, pushing your heart rate up and down quickly can be hazardous to those who are out of shape. At first glance, yoga may not seem like an obvious heart health activity, but it is. Yoga is great for strength and muscle toning, and there are so many styles of yoga, you’re sure to find something that will elevate your heart rate and that you’ll enjoy.