How Exercise Can Improve Your Heart Health

a woman in the foreground stretching her arms in a yoga pose with a woman in the background doing the same thing

Understand how exercise can improve your heart health and get tips for maintaining an exercise routine.

One of the most impactful actions you can take to improve the health of your heart is to have a regular exercise routine. Estimates suggest that only one in five adults and teens currently get sufficient exercise, but the benefits to overall health can’t be overstated. From better sleep and improvements to mental health, to a stronger heart and less risk of disease, exercise can truly work wonders for both heart health and general health.1

How exercise impacts heart health

Exercising regularly can reduce heart-related risk factors in the following ways.

  • Lowers blood pressure
    High blood pressure (hypertension) and a sedentary lifestyle are major risk factors for heart disease and heart attack. Engaging in exercise reduces blood pressure and promotes healthy blood flow throughout the heart and other organs.2

  • Reduces diabetes risk
    Inactive lifestyles and obesity can lead to type 2 diabetes, which is a risk factor for heart disease.1

  • Facilitates healthy body weight
    Obesity can contribute to heart risk factors like diabetes, high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and more. Exercising regularly can help you maintain a healthy body weight and decrease strain on your heart.

  • Improves sleep
    Poor sleep can cause inflammation and contribute to various risk factors for heart disease. Exercising regularly can improve symptoms from insomnia and sleep apnea and help you get better rest.1

  • Reduces stress hormones
    Stress hormones can put additional strain on the heart, but exercise keeps these hormones at bay.3

a woman and her trainer at the gym

Heart-friendly workouts

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week for adults.1 That’s about 20-30 minutes per day of moderate exercise, or 10 minutes per day of vigorous exercise. In order to establish your heart-healthy exercise routine, consider these guidelines and tips.

  • Spend less time sitting
    One of the greatest risks to heart health is a sedentary lifestyle.1 If 150 minutes of exercise per week feels daunting at first, start with small changes—like sitting less—to improve your heart health over time. Try setting a timer to remind yourself to take quick walking breaks throughout the day.

  • Explore activities to find what you enjoy
    Keep in mind that if you don’t like one form of exercise, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy exercising! There are countless ways to get your blood flowing and keep your body moving in order to improve your overall health.

    Moderate-intensity workouts might include walking, dancing, or even gardening. For more vigorous exercise, try uphill hiking, running, or swimming laps. Experiment with various activities to find out what you like most so that your exercise routine can become an enjoyable part of your week.

  • Integrate a variety of workout types
    Variety not only keeps your routine exciting and allows you to try new things, but also helps in building the cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength that is most beneficial to heart health. The best exercise routines combine aerobic exercise, like jogging, with resistance training, like weightlifting.3

  • Track your progress
    As you build your routine and increase the intensity of your workouts over time, it can be helpful to keep track of key metrics. For example, keep an eye on your target heart rate as you exercise. This will help in feeling out how hard to push and challenge yourself without posing unnecessary health risks, and will also give you a data point as to how hard you have to exercise (how fast you walk, etc.) in order to raise your heart rate to the desired target range.

    As you progress, you can also track the amount of reps and weight you work with, your speed in running or swimming, or your body composition metrics. Be patient with your process and celebrate your wins!

Before beginning a new exercise regimen, speak with your doctor. If you or your doctor have concerns about AFib or another pre-existing heart rhythm condition, you may consider keeping track of your heart health on the go with KardiaMobile Card.

Sources:
  1. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults
  2. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/01.CIR.0000048890.59383.8D
  3. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/exercise-and-the-heart