Here’s how much you should exercise for a healthy heart

Fitness experts reveal the recommended guidelines for physical activity and the various factors that determine the optimal exercise regimen for a healthy heart.

Maintaining a healthy heart is essential for overall well-being as the heart is a vital organ responsible for pumping oxygenated blood throughout the body and regular exercise plays a significant role in keeping the heart strong and reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. However, one may wonder, “How much exercise is required for a healthy heart?” so, we got a few health experts on board to explore the recommended guidelines for physical activity and delve into the various factors that determine the optimal exercise regimen for a healthy heart.

Understanding the benefits of exercise for the heart

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Mohit Tandon, Consultant Non-Invasive Cardiologist at Fortis Escorts Hospital in New Delhi’s Okhla, shared, “Regular exercise offers numerous benefits for cardiovascular health. It helps strengthen the heart muscle, improves blood circulation, lowers blood pressure, reduces cholesterol levels, manages weight, and enhances overall cardiovascular fitness. Engaging in physical activity also promotes better mental health, reduces stress levels, and boosts energy levels, leading to a better quality of life.”

Sanjay Bhat, Senior Consultant, Interventional Cardiology at Aster CMI Hospital, asserted, “When it comes to exercising and getting fit, cardio is the most preferred routine for everyone. From improving heart health to losing weight, cardiovascular exercises have several health benefits and help in keeping your heart, lungs and circulatory system healthy. Despite its numerous benefits, cardiovascular exercises have several myths associated with them which often demotivate many people and reduce the effectiveness of the workout.”

Pointing out that many people only consider cardio exercises for weight loss, he said, “Apart from cardiovascular exercises, strength training exercises such as weight lifting are also equally important to effectively shed excess kilos. By performing strength training, you not only build lean muscles but are also able to burn fat at a fast pace. Lifting weight twice a week for 45 to 60 minutes will give you an afterburn that will ensure that you burn calories even while resting and will also help you increase your metabolism. Whether you run for an hour or do a high-intensity training for 10-20 minutes, you will burn calories. However, many people today believe that they can reduce weight only with high- intensity interval training. This is nothing but a myth because even if you consistently do cardio exercises at your own pace, you are bound to lose weight and can keep you heart health intact.”

Recommended guidelines for exercise

The American Heart Association (AHA) and other reputable health organisations provide guidelines on the recommended amount and intensity of exercise for maintaining a healthy heart. These guidelines aim to encourage individuals to engage in a balanced and sustainable exercise routine. According to Dr Mohit Tandon, here are the key recommendations –

1. Aerobic Exercise: Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week. Examples of moderate-intensity activities include brisk walking, cycling, swimming or dancing. Vigorous-intensity activities may include running, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or playing sports like basketball or soccer.

2. Strength Training: Include strength training exercises at least two days per week. Focus on working major muscle groups such as the legs, arms, back, and core. Strength training can involve weightlifting, resistance band workouts, bodyweight exercises or Yoga.

3. Flexibility and Balance: Incorporate flexibility and balance exercises into your routine to enhance joint mobility and stability. Activities such as stretching, yoga, tai chi or Pilates can help improve flexibility and balance, reducing the risk of falls and injuries.

4. Factors Influencing Exercise Recommendations: The optimal exercise regimen for a healthy heart can vary based on several factors, including age, overall health status, fitness level and personal goals. It is advisable to consult a healthcare professional before starting a new exercise program, especially if you have any pre-existing medical conditions or concerns.

5. Progression and Safety: It’s important to start any exercise routine gradually and progressively increase the duration, intensity, and frequency of workouts. This approach allows your body to adapt and reduces the risk of injuries. Additionally, listening to your body, staying hydrated, wearing appropriate gear and using proper form during exercises are crucial for maintaining safety.

6. Finding Motivation and Staying Consistent: Staying motivated and consistent with your exercise routine is key to reaping the long-term benefits for your heart health. Consider these strategies –

  • Set realistic goals: Establish achievable short-term and long-term goals to keep yourself motivated.
  • Find activities you enjoy: Engage in exercises that you find enjoyable, as it increases the likelihood of sticking to your routine.
  • Mix it up: Vary your workouts to keep them interesting and prevent boredom. Try different activities and explore new fitness classes or sports.
  • Get support: Exercise with friends, join group classes, or seek support from a workout buddy to stay motivated and accountable.

Dr Mohit Tandon concluded, “Regular exercise is a vital component of maintaining a healthy heart and reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. By adhering to the recommended guidelines, incorporating various types of exercises and considering individual factors, you can develop a well-rounded exercise routine that suits your needs and goals. Remember, even small increments of physical activity can make a significant difference in your heart health. So lace up your sneakers, prioritise your cardiovascular fitness.”

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