One of the most important things for maintaining a healthy lifestyle is focusing on cardiovascular health. While building muscle is key to maintaining your fitness, good heart health will help prevent high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, all of which can lead to heart disease. There are lots of ways to incorporate cardio exercises into your routine and help increase your heart’s health.
Not all cardio has to be long runs or bike rides that take hours. If you’re short on time, you can use the quick but effective High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) method. HIIT alternates bursts of intense work followed by short recovery periods. Most HIIT workouts don’t (or can’t) last more than 20 minutes. Since you’re working as hard as you can during the intense intervals, you’re significantly raising your heart before bringing it back down again, so you don’t need to spend hours doing a HIIT workout to see the benefits. Raising and lowering your heart rate multiple times in a single session makes your heart stronger and helps improve your cardiovascular efficiency. Plus, HIIT workout increases your metabolic rate for up to 24 hours after, burning more calories and making it easier to lose weight than a longer, low intensity workout.
A variation of High Intensity Interval Training is Tabata Interval Training. Tabata training is a four-minute period made up of 8 cycles, with 20 seconds of high intensity followed by 10 seconds of rest. You should be pushing yourself as hard as you can for those twenty seconds of high intensity work. You can do anything for twenty seconds! Tabata training is great if you want a high intensity workout but don’t have a lot of spare time or space. They’re great for traveling, because they can be done in a hotel room with no equipment. You can even incorporate some strength training into a Tabata interval. You can do 20 seconds of high knees for one period, then jumping squats or lunges for the next.
If a tough HIIT or long endurance workout doesn’t sound appealing, try taking a walk. Never underestimate the power of a simple walk, even if it’s on a treadmill. It may not seem as intense as running or HIIT workouts, but a brisk walk can help lower your risk of heart disease. In fact, studies have shown that moderate-intensity walking has about the same cardiovascular benefits as running. The American Heart Association recommends taking 10,000 steps per day, along with 30 minutes of moderate exercise.
Yoga may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of exercises to work your heart, but yoga actually has a lot physical and mental benefits that are good for your heart. The most important part of yoga is the focus on breathing deeply and mindfully, bringing more oxygen through your heart throughout your workout. It’s not the ragged, fast-paced breathing that we do during intense workouts. It’s a deep, slow breath through the nose that helps keep your heart rate low throughout your workout. Yoga also helps lower stress levels, cortisone levels and blood pressure, and improves lung function, all of which are important for maintaining a healthy heart.