What type of exercise is best for the heart?

The best exercise for the heart is aerobic exercise. Like all muscles, the heart needs a good workout too. It gets this with aerobic exercise, like riding a bike, running, dancing or playing soccer. Any exercise that makes people breathe faster is giving their heart a good workout.

To improve your heart health, you can get a moderate amount of physical activity in a variety of ways. The important thing is to choose activities you enjoy and that fit into your daily life. Doing a variety of types of exercise makes your workouts more interesting—and it also brings a wider variety of health benefits.

  • Aerobic exercise - Aerobic activity should be at the center of your exercise program. Aerobic means "with air" or "with oxygen." Aerobic exercise uses oxygen from the blood to fuel your muscles. It's the best type of exercise for your heart health. Aerobic activities generally use large muscle groups, are rhythmic, and can be performed continuously over a period of time at moderate intensity.
  • Strength training - Often called resistance training, strength training helps build and maintain endurance, muscle strength, and bone health. It often involves some form of lifting weights and when done appropriately is an important part of your regular exercise routine. However, resistance training is not appropriate for all heart patients. For example, if you've had open heart surgery, you should not do any form of strength training until you're cleared by your surgeon, usually 4 to 6 weeks after surgery. Always talk to your healthcare provider before beginning or advancing a resistance training program. In most cases, a trained professional should guide your weight training.
  • Stretching - As you age, your muscles tighten and your range of motion can decrease. This can hinder your daily activities and make you more prone to injury. Regular stretching can help lengthen your muscles and restore your range of motion. Stretching can also get your blood flowing and help prepare your muscles for other exercise.

Especially at first, it's a good idea to do aerobic exercise and strength training on different days. This allows your body to recover between strength training sessions. But stretching combines well with both aerobic exercise and strength training, especially at the end of a session.

Mirabai Holland
Physiology Specialist
We all know the heart is a muscle, arguably the most important muscle in your body. We can maintain cardiovascular health with aerobic exercise. Aerobics is any exercise using your large muscle groups to increase  the body's need for oxygen over an extended period of time. Moderate aerobic exercise helps to develop a stronger, more efficient heart muscle, improve aerobic capacity, reduce blood pressure, (now known to be a major factor in preventing heart attacks), stimulate metabolism to help reduce weight gain. Also it can reduce increase HDL or good cholesterol, promoting healthier arteries, and reducing risk of heart disease.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

What if I told you that the best type of exercise for the heart was free, easy to do, safe, and simple—would you try it? You don’t need a gym membership or a piece of fancy exercise equipment to get started because walking is something that almost everyone can do. All you need is a good pair of sneakers or walking shoes and a little bit of motivation to get out the door. You can get significant heart benefits by walking for as little as 30 minutes a day. And a recent study shows that that by doing a total of two-and-a-half hours of moderate-intensity activity (such as brisk walking) every week, you can lower your risk of heart disease by 14 percent.

So what are you waiting for? Go take a walk!

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.