Did you know that one in three deaths in the United States is due to cardiovascular disease? Your heart is essential to every single function your body performs, yet many people don’t give much thought to how much exercise it gets. When we work out, we often focus on the parts of our bodies that people can see – flabby arms, bulging tummies and double chins.
Luckily, the exercises we do to look better keep our hearts healthy as well. Any exercise will improve the way your heart functions, but cardiovascular or aerobic exercises will have the most impact. Try some of these activities to lower your resting heart rate, increase good cholesterol and make your heart an efficient pumping machine!
It may seem like a kid’s activity, but jumping rope is one of the best ways for adults to get in some quick cardio exercise. Fifteen to 20 minutes can burn off hundreds of calories depending on your intensity level. Plus, whatever your excuse for not working out is (“The gym is too expensive,” “I’m too busy,” etc.), everyone can afford a jump rope and has five minutes somewhere in the day. Jump ropes are portable as well, so no skipping a workout just because you’re on vacation!
A Burpee, or squat thrust, is a four-part exercise that is not for the faint of heart. Here are the steps to perform a Burpee:
1) Begin in a standing position. Do a squat (you should look like you’re sitting in an invisible chair).
2) Jump backward with your feet so you’re in a push-up position.
3) Jump back to the squat position, leaving your hands on the floor.
4) Stand back up.
There are several variations to this exercise to change the difficulty level according to your needs. This instructive video is one of many on YouTube that can help you find the best variation for your goals.
Swimming is a fantastic workout that will improve your heart health and tone your muscles. It is particularly nice for those who suffer from “gym jitters,” and would rather not be surrounded by others at the gym. You can go at your own speed, and many pools have lanes that are designated for lap swimmers as well as adult-only hours. It can be a relaxing way to burn a significant number of calories, and it’s great for people who have injuries or weak knees that make running or elliptical training painful.
If you need a little motivation from the people working out around you, a step aerobics class could be the perfect place to start. Many gyms offer step aerobics classes, and the music and ambiance can be invigorating. If you’re not a member of a gym, step aerobics can easily be done in the home using a staircase, stool, or anything elevated that will hold your weight. Step aerobics is easy to do; just step up with one foot, step up with the other so you’re standing on the platform, and then step down one foot at a time. Repeat to the rhythms of your favorite tunes and you’re all set!
If these exercises seem too intimidating, or you’re not ready to commit wholeheartedly to an exercise program, try to just get outside and take a walk. The weather is beautiful this time of year, and the fresh air can clear your mind and get your blood flowing. Take it slowly – speed walk for 10 seconds out of every minute, and slowly increase that amount of time until you’re speedwalking continuously. Who knows? You may turn out to enjoy running!
If your heart is pumping and you are breathing heavily, then you are improving your heart health and decreasing your risk for cardiovascular disease. The most important part of any exercise regimen is actually doing it. Some of these activities may not be for you. That’s fine; try something else! Exercise may not always be enjoyable, but a happy heart and a healthy body are always worth it.