6 Exercises That Will Strengthen Your Heart as Much as Your Muscle

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This is a gust blog written exclusively for FITASFUCK by Virginia Cunningham. We really appreciate her great work! If you are interested in contributing to the blog don’t hesitate to contact us!

Getting in shape requires a multifaceted approach that should involve both strength and cardiovascular training. While strength training is designed to improve your outward muscular definition and abilities (ability to lift, push or pull), cardiovascular training is designed to increase the strength of your heart and develop your lung capacity, making it easier for you to do things like run or walk up a flight of stairs. 

Not surprisingly, the exercises that are best suited to improve our hearts are the ones that cause our heart rate to significantly increase.


Image courtesy of Sura

These exercises usually involve longer periods of time and a lot of repetition, but the list is long enough that most people can find at least a few that they enjoy. Even if you just do a cardio exercise as recreation, it still counts for improving your heart health.

Here are six of the most common to choose from:

1. Running — If you want to be a better runner, the best way to go about it is to simply start running. It’s one of the most typical ways people improve the strength of their heart, and is even recommended as a component of fighting illness.

Some people prefer indoor running on a treadmill, but enjoying the great outdoor works just as well, and can give you more of a scenic experience.

A good running regiment doesn’t have to involve long distances, but it should be consistent. As you run on a regular basis, you’ll be able to handle the longer distances more comfortably.

2. Swimming — You might not think of swimming as “exercise” as much as just recreation, but swimming laps is actually more difficult to master than most of the exercises in this list. Not only does it improve the strength of your heart, but it also builds other muscles and burns a ton of calories in the process.

3. Cycling — Cycling isn’t as intensive as some exercises, but that can be a good thing. For those who are looking for a lower impact exercise (most likely to deal with knee pain) yet still burns a significant amount of calories, cycling is an acceptable alternative. Since it increases your heart rate the same way as running, your heart stands to benefit in a similar manner.

4. Walking — You’ll burn less calories and build less muscle than you would running or jogging, but walking does improve your heart strength. Hiking trails and uphill walks in particular are great for heart health, as they’re more likely to push your heart rate higher.

5. Yoga — Yoga doesn’t have you covering distance, but it does get your heart rate up, stretches your muscles and can really challenge your body. It’s a good component to add to any of the exercises listed here; though it can be beneficial by itself.

6. Interval/Circuit Training — Circuit and interval training (sometimes referred to as high intensity interval training), is where you perform an exercise at a high intensity level for a set amount of time (usually 30 seconds to 1 minute), and then move on to a different, lower-intensity exercise, and then again to a higher intensity level. The “circuit” comes when you move back and forth between the higher and lower intensity exercises several times in a row.

It can even be performed with one exercise, like running, where you run at a fast pace for 30 seconds, then run slower for one minute and continue to alternate. This type of exercise can build muscle, strengthen your heart and burn a lot of calories.

What works for you?

The type of heart healthy exercise you choose will have a lot to do with your current fitness level, your goals and what you feel comfortable with. Interval training isn’t for everyone, and at the same time, there are a lot of people who need more than just walking to challenge their heart.

Stick with the exercises that are your speed, yet make sure they still challenge your body. The more consistent you are, the more you’ll benefit your heart and overall health.

Virginia Cunningham is a freelance health writer for NorthWest and yoga enthusiast in the Los Angeles area. While she mostly enjoys practicing yoga on a daily basis, she also likes to switch things up every once in awhile with a different exercise that challenges her.


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