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Exercises for a Healthy Heart

There are a lot of factors that affect our health that we have little to no control over. We can’t control our genetics or family history, nor can we change the environment we were exposed to in our childhood. With so many risk factors for heart disease that we cannot control, it seems silly to not seize simple opportunities to improve our heart – and overall – health.

One of the most important things we can do for our health is exercise. Regular exercise has many health benefits, including the strengthening of muscles, bones, and joints; reduction of stress, anxiety, and depression; improved circulation; and a strengthened cardiovascular system. Before beginning a new exercise regimen, discuss it with your doctor. Certain medications can cause abnormal reactions to exercise. Past and current injuries can make certain activities unsafe.

Aerobic, or cardiovascular, exercise improves your body’s ability to properly use oxygen by strengthening the heart and lungs. This is the most beneficial type of exercise for heart health. The American Heart Association recommends working your way up to regularly performing 30 minutes of aerobic exercises five times a week. Exercising every other day will help ensure a regular aerobic workout schedule.

A good aerobic workout consists of three parts: Warm up, conditioning, and cool down. The warm up is a brief period of time devoted to low-intensity exercise, such as stretching or walking at a slow pace. This is important because it reduces stress on the muscles and begins to get your heart and lungs gradually working a little harder, preparing them for further exertion. The conditioning portion is where you engage in the actual activity. This should be the longest and most intense part of your workout. This is where your heart rate goes up and where calories are burned. It is important to remember not to overexert yourself during this portion of the workout. Take your pulse periodically to make sure your heart rate isn’t getting too high. Target heart rate varies with gender, age, and Body Mass Index, so be sure to determine your target heart rate before beginning. Some popular conditioning exercises include walking, cycling, jogging, skating, and rowing. The cool down serves to help ease the heart and lungs back down to their regular rate. This is essentially the same type of activity performed in a warm up. Slow your rate back down, perhaps dropping to a gentle cycling speed or a casual walk or follow-up with a period of stretching.