Cardio Exercises That Are Best for Your Heart Health?

Cardio Exercises That Are Best for Your Heart Health

Keeping your heart healthy is one of the most important things you can do for your overall health and wellbeing. The heart is the most vital muscle in your body, so it makes sense to pay attention to exercising it! Certain types of cardio exercise are particularly beneficial for strengthening your heart and reducing your risk of developing heart disease or stroke. 

Let’s explore some of the best exercises for boosting heart health.


Aerobic exercises, also known as “cardio”, are designed to raise your heart rate and make you break a sweat. This includes activities like brisk walking, jogging, biking, swimming laps, jumping rope, dance classes, and kickboxing. 

Aerobics help improve circulation throughout the body and lower blood pressure, which takes strain off the heart. They also help control blood sugar levels if you have diabetes.

The CDC recommends that every adult should get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week, in intervals of 10 minutes or more. Some examples of moderate-intensity aerobics include:

  • Brisk walking for 30-60 minutes three to four times per week can improve cardiovascular fitness.
  • Cycling leisurely on flat terrain for 45-90 minutes can burn calories and strengthen the heart muscle.
  • Swimming at an easy, relaxed pace for 30-45 minutes is ideal for those with joint pain since it removes impact.
  • Gardening for 30 minutes to an hour provides aerobic activity and mental relaxation.
  • Trying a dance class for 45-60 minutes lets you burn calories in a fun, social setting.

If you’re short on time but want an intense workout, you can meet the CDC’s guidelines with just 1 hour and 15 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise. Vigorous aerobics significantly increase your heart rate and breathing. Examples include:

  • Jogging at a brisk pace for 20-30 minutes 3 days a week boosts heart rate healthily.
  • Biking over 10 mph for 45 minutes to an hour gets your pulse pumping.
  • Swimming laps for 30 minutes with minimal breaks is an excellent cardio workout.
  • Playing a 60-90 minute game of soccer or basketball burns calories fast.
  • Hiking uphill for 45-60 minutes lets you enjoy nature while raising your heart rate.

You can also mix moderate and vigorous aerobic activities during the week. As a general rule, 1 minute of vigorous exercise provides the same benefits as 2 minutes of moderate exercise. The key is sustaining an elevated heart rate for an extended period.

Don’t think you must overexert yourself to get a good cardio workout. Even leisurely walking offers excellent health benefits for your heart without straining yourself.

Strength Training

Strength training, also called resistance training, builds muscle and improves heart health, especially when combined with aerobic exercise. Studies show it can help raise HDL (good) cholesterol while lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol. Strength training also reduces the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

The CDC and American Heart Association recommend incorporating strength training exercises into your routine at least two days per week. These should work for all the major muscle groups:

  • Focus on arm strength 1-2 times weekly by doing bicep curls, tricep extensions, shoulder presses and push-ups.
  • Squats, lunges, calf raises, and leg lifts 2-3 times a week tone lower body muscles, including quads, hamstrings and glutes.
  • Core exercises like planks, sit-ups and back extensions strengthen abdominals, obliques and lower back muscles.
  • Bench presses, flys, lateral raises and rowing exercises work the chest, shoulders and upper back areas.

Some examples of effective strength training exercises:

  • Lifting free weights like dumbbells for 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions builds lean muscle.
  • Working out on weight machines like leg press or lat pulldown lets you target specific muscle groups.
  • Using resistance bands for 30-60 seconds per exercise provides a great portable option.
  • Doing bodyweight exercises like push-ups, sit-ups, and squats for 10-30 repetitions each tones muscles throughout the body.

Aim for 2-4 sets of 8-12 repetitions for each exercise, using enough resistance that the last repetition is challenging to complete. This builds muscular strength and endurance.

Flexibility Exercises

While flexibility and stretching exercises don’t directly strengthen the heart, they allow you to continue with aerobics and strength training by preventing injuries, cramps, and muscle strains. Improving flexibility makes it easier to sustain cardio and resistance training for heart health.

Flexibility exercises like yoga, Pilates, and tai chi can be done anytime, anywhere. You can practice:

  • Yoga or Pilates, 2-3 times weekly, boosts flexibility during warmups and cooldowns.
  • Taking a weekly yoga or tai chi class promotes stress relief and mental health.
  • Daily standing and seated stretches at home keep muscles long, strong and injury-free.

Making flexibility training a regular habit will help you maintain the active lifestyle required for heart health.


There are many types of effective exercise for keeping your heart strong and reducing heart disease risk. A comprehensive fitness program should include aerobics, strength training, and flexibility exercises. With consistent training, you can maintain excellent heart health for life.

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