The Best Heart Improvement Workout Program

The Best Heart Improvement Workout Program

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Regular cardiovascular exercise will get you on the path to a healthier heart.

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With regular exercise, your heart muscle gets stronger, meaning it will be able to pump blood more forcefully and will also be able to pump more blood with each stroke. At the same time, your body gets more adept at using the oxygen and turning it into the energy that will fuel your workout. Keeping the notion of progressive improvement in mind, the best heart improvement workout program will start a level that you can handle and continually get more intense.

The Basics

The general rule to improving heart health is this: You'll get more benefits the more time you spend doing physical activities that get your heart pumping. If you're currently sedentary or you don't exercise much, it's important not to take on too much at a time. During this "general heart conditioning" phase, your focus should be on developing a regular habit of moderate-intensity exercise, with a goal of about 30 minutes per day most days of the week. Moderate-intensity exercise includes walking, downhill skiing, roller skating, bicycling at a leisurely pace and gardening. If you're not able to do 30 minutes a day just yet, do as much as you can and gradually add more as you're able. If you've had a heart attack or are taking medications, it's probably still OK to do moderate-intensity exercise -- but talk to your doctor first.

Adding Intensity

When you're regularly doing 30 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise, five or six days a week, increase the intensity into the "vigorous" range to improve. You don't have to do a vigorous-intensity workout every day, but try for one or two "hard" days of jogging, cross-country skiing, jumping rope, aerobic dancing or some other challenging workout each week. During these workouts, focus on elevating your heart rate to between 50 and 75 percent of your maximum heart rate. A simple way to calculate your maximum heart rate is to subtract your age from 220, though that's only a broad estimate. In the beginning, you may only be able to maintain that level of intensity for a few minutes, but as your heart, lungs and muscles adapt, you'll be able to add more time.

High-Intensity Training

Emerging research suggests that high-intensity interval training is an ideal way to improve cardiovascular health -- though it's not for beginners. "HIIT" involves periods of exercise at high intensity followed by periods of recovery. For example, you might sprint at near-maximum speed for 30 seconds, and then slow down to 50 percent for another 30 seconds, cycling between the two up to 10 times. HIIT was safer and tolerated better than steady-state, moderate-intensity exercise by cardiac patients, found a 2012 review published in the journal "Sports Medicine.” Once you're able to handle longer, more vigorous workouts, try adding a HIIT workout into your routine one or two days a week.

A Healthy Exercise Routine

A healthy exercise routine should also include strength-training workouts two days a week, helping you build bone mass and maintain muscular strength. And since overweight people are more likely to develop heart disease, rmake an effort not to consume more calories than your body requires. Eat well-balanced meals that favor lean proteins, vegetables, fruits, and complex carbohydrates over excess sugars, fats and simple carbs.