Fun Activities That Are Heart Healthy

We all have lots of muscles in our bodies that do different, useful jobs. The heart includes some of our most important muscles. Its muscles and valves keep your lifeblood moving around your body 24/7.

Like any muscle, it gets stronger and more reliable with proper training — we’re talking about exercise.

Regular exercise helps reduce your risk of heart disease and can add years to your life! (Heart disease is America’s No. 1 killer.)

Moving your body just 30 minutes a day can help improve your heart health.

What Kinds of Exercises Help the Heart?

Anytime you move around, it’s good for you. You can boost your heart health through aerobic exercise — an activity that uses the large muscles of your body, prompts your heart to beat faster and causes you to breathe more heavily.

If you have a medical condition such as a heart problem or diabetes, visit with your health care professional about exercise before starting an aerobic activity.

Find an aerobic activity you like and plan to do it regularly. For heart health, plan for moderate aerobic activity most days of the week. Your activities should add up to about 2.5 hours a week. Breaking it into a few 10 to 15 minute sessions can make it easier to fit in. In a moment we’ll share some great aerobic activity suggestions.

What’s in it for me… and my heart?

You, and anyone who joins you, gets a number of benefits from your aerobic activities:

  1. Burns calories. If you’ve ever stepped on a scale, you know that’s a good thing. It can help you maintain a healthy weight or lose some extra pounds. Being overweight is a big risk factor for heart disease.
  2. Lowers blood pressure. High blood pressure is another major risk for heart disease. A moderate aerobic activity for 30 to 60 minutes on most days can help lower your blood pressure.
  3. Lowers cholesterol. You can cut your LDL (bad cholesterol) and cut your chances of heart problems.
  4. Reduces stress. Stress may contribute to conditions that lead to heart disease.

Good aerobic activities include:

  • Moderate walking (about 3.5 mph)
  • Gardening
  • Light yard work
  • Hiking on flat ground
  • Golfing (not using a cart)
  • Bicycling at less than 10 mph
  • Swimming
  • Softball
  • Tennis (doubles)
  • Downhill skiing
  • Dancing

For additional benefits for your heart, add some vigorous activities. If all your activities are vigorous, you’ll want them to add up to at least 75 minutes per week.

Vigorous activities include:

  • Brisk walking (about 4.5 mph)
  • Heavy yard work
  • Stair climbing
  • Jogging
  • Hiking uphill
  • Bicycling at more than 10 mph
  • Basketball
  • Tennis (singles)
  • Soccer
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Jumping rope

How Do I Know If I’m Helping My Heart?

If you’d like to get the most from your aerobic activities and boost your heart fitness, track your heart rate and make sure it’s going up to a good level during your aerobic activities. Start by finding out what your resting heart rate is. You can count your heart beats for 10 seconds and multiply that number by six.

During your activity, you should boost your heart rate to about 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate based on your age. Here’s a chart that shows age ranges, your target heart rate and your maximum heart rate.

Find your age and target heart rate: Average maximum heart rate, 100%:
20 years old — 100 to 170 beats /min.

30 years old — 95 to 162 beats/min.

35 years old — 93 to 157 beats /min.

40 years old — 90 to 153 beats /min.

45 years old — 88 to 149 beats /min.

50 years old — 85 to 145 beats /min.

55 years old — 83 to 140 beats /min.

60 years old — 80 to 136 beats /min.

65 years old — 78 to 132 beats /min.

70 years old — 75 to 128 beats /min.
200 beats beats/min.

190 beats beats/min.

185 beats beats/min.

180 beats beats/min.

175 beats beats/min.

170 beats beats/min.

165 beats beats/min.

160 beats beats/min.

155 beats beats/min.

150 beats beats/min.

For moderate intensity exercise, your target heart rate should be 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate.

For vigorous exercise, your target heart rate should be 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.

When you first start exercising, aim for the lower number for your age range. As your fitness improves, you can slowly work toward the higher number.

It’s never too late to start improving your heart health. If you have questions about aerobic activities or what’s right for you, visit with your health care professional.

Meet the Author

Virinderjit S. Bamrah, MD is an Interventional Cardiologist at Aurora Wilkinson Medical Clinic in Summit, WI.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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