Regular exercise can lower your risk of diabetes, stroke, depression and obesity, and it's very beneficial for your heart, too. According to the U.S. Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health, people who are sedentary are twice as likely to develop heart disease as those people who get regular exercise.
"Physically fit people have a lower risk for heart disease and those who develop it, often develop it later with less severity," says cardiologist Sanjay Bindra, MD, of Regional Medical Center of San Jose.
Regular exercise can lower blood pressure and lower your cholesterol. Added bonus? The American Heart Association (AHA) says that for each hour of regular exercise you get, your life expectancy will increase two hours.
"Over the last five decades, numerous scientific reports have shown the benefit of exercise for heart disease risk reduction, to both healthy people and those with existing disease," says Dr. Bindra.
Whether you have heart disease or you're just looking to start a heart-healthy fitness plan, here are three types of workouts you'll want to incorporate.
Aerobic exercise for better circulation
For overall cardiovascular health, the AHA suggests getting at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity like walking 5 days a week or 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity like running 3 days a week. This type of exercise will improve your blood circulation, which can lower your blood pressure and help control how your heart pumps. Here are some aerobic exercises to try:
- Indoor cycling and outdoor biking
- Elliptical, stair climbers and steppers
- Aerobic dancing
The talk test can help you understand the intensity level of the exercise you're doing:
During moderate-intensity activity you should be able to talk, but not sing. During vigorous-intensity, you shouldn't be able to say more than a few words without taking a breath.
Resistance training for stronger muscles
The AHA also recommends moderate or high intensity strength training two days a week. Stronger bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments help you perform daily tasks and lowers your risk of injury.
Stronger muscles can boost your metabolism and help you burn more calories, even when you're not working out. And strength training isn't just about free weights - here are some more ideas:
- Free weights
- Weight machines
- Resistance bands
Remember to take at least one day off in between training sessions so your muscles can recover.
Stretching, flexibility and balance for musculoskeletal health
Flexibility exercises like stretching and balance training improve your musculoskeletal health. Good musculoskeletal health gives you the ability to perform resistance and aerobic exercises that are good for your heart. Good flexibility can help with stability, and prevent injuries and falls. Try these flexibility-improving workouts:
- Tai chi
- Dynamic stretching before workouts
- Static stretching afterwards
Get started now
Worried because it's been a while since you last exercised? It's never too late to start. "Even middle aged sedentary individuals who begin an exercise regimen or participate in an active occupation, have shown improvement in heart disease, and reduction in death," says Bindra.
If you have heart disease, you'll want to talk to your doctor before beginning any new exercise plan. If you have chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath or palpitations while exercising, report your discomfort to your doctor as soon as you can, he adds.