Five great heart healthy workouts

While February is National Heart Health Month, which is dedicated to raising awareness regarding heart healthy lifestyles, keeping the most important muscle in your body pumping throughout the year is the primary goal.

There are too many workout possibilities to include here, but five great heart health workouts are featured this week all of which highlight strengthening the heart. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.

Workout 1: As everyone should know by now, walking is a great cardiovascular endurance exercise. And, if you are sedentary, getting out and walking regularly is a great way to begin improving your cardiovascular health. However, if you walk regularly, your body may have adapted to this activity. Don’t stop walking, but two-three times a week include structured high intensity interval training (i.e. HIIT) to increase the intensity and challenge. You may combine several 5-minute intervals of 30 second all out power walking becoming winded, with 30 seconds of active recovery catching your breath, five times in a row followed by five minutes of moderate paced walking. Use hills and flats to keep it interesting and challenging.

Workout 2: Runners/cyclists/swimmers, etc. remember that while it is great to get out and get in a good solid run/cycle/swim, it is also important to integrate HIIT as mentioned above. Periodically, rather than concentrating on distance, concentrate on time. For example, if the time you have to run is 30 minutes, then the intensity of that run should be higher than on a day when you are performing a longer duration run which concentrates on steady state training. Both high intensity interval training and steady state training increase the strength of the heart, so perform both throughout the week, making certain to leave adequate time for recovery.

Workout 3: Muscular strength training for all major muscle groups of the body is essential whether you are a walker, runner, cyclist or swimmer. Your cardiovascular health and your musculoskeletal health benefit from strength training. Train two to three times per week on non-consecutive days taking each set of each exercise to momentary muscle failure in the final two repetitions. Perform slow, controlled repetitions, concentrating on the quality of each repetition rather than the quantity. A good method of training which will “get it all in” would be to combine a day of high intensity interval training via your walk, run or cycling with your muscular strength training program.

Workout 4: Mind/body exercise also is great for heart health. I would suggest that most well-designed exercise programs take into consideration the mind and body in order to be safe and effective. However, participating in Tai Chi, yoga or Pilates programs may certainly enhance your heart health, among other benefits, particularly when concentrating upon deep diaphragmatic breathing and specific stress reduction techniques.

Workout 5: Now, for the fun stuff! Hiking, biking, alpine or downhill skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, sailing, kayaking, rowing, roller blading, wakeboarding, water skiing, tennis, golfing and just about any other activity you can imagine that gets that heart pumping, causes heavy breathing, and the sweat to fly is a good choice as long as you have been performing your regimented workouts regularly so that you are fit enough to have fun!

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