The Best Exercises To Strengthen Your Heart

Over the course of an average lifetime, the heart beats 2.5 billion times, helping to supply the body with blood and carrying oxygen, hormones, and essential cells, as well as carrying waste materials to be removed from the body, as stated by Harvard Health Publishing. Therefore, a healthy lifestyle is vital, in order to strengthen the heart and fight off cardiovascular disease. The heart is a muscle, and so it stands to reason that exercise will be of help. What movements, in particular, are most beneficial to this organ?

"Aerobic exercise and resistance training are the most important, [and] although flexibility doesn't contribute directly to heart health ... it provides a good foundation for performing aerobic and strength exercises more effectively," says Kerry J. Stewart, an exercise physiologist at Johns Hopkins. Moves focused on aerobics, strength training, and stretching all work together as part of a plan for a healthy and strong heart.

Aerobic exercises, or cardio, help improve circulation and lower blood pressure

First up, when it comes to exercises that strengthen the heart, there are aerobic moves or cardio. These are activities that get your heart pumping, as circulation and blood pressure are both improved (via Healthline).

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting in at least two-and-a-half hours of cardio each week, at a moderate intensity. This may be done through sports, like swimming, or interval training that incorporates short and intense bursts of movement into longer and slightly slower periods while walking, running, or biking, according to Prevention.

This could be accomplished through a fun workout such as kickboxing, done alone, with a significant other, or with a group of friends, as pointed out by "Today." Another great form of aerobic exercise that is suggested by Johns Hopkins and can be done in the gym, at home, or even while traveling, is jumping rope.

Building up strong muscles helps ease the stress put on the heart

Next up is strength training, which is also beneficial for heart health. The American Heart Association says that these types of movements should be done at least twice a week. Some common workouts in this area involve free weights, resistance bands, or bodyweight, as you work the major muscle groups of arms, legs, hips, chest, shoulders, abs, and back (via Healthline).

While you may picture a bodybuilder picking up and setting down heavy barbells, it does not have to be that intense. In fact, as suggested by "Today," you can simply move your body while going about your day: When you stop to pick something up off the floor, go ahead and repeat that squat or lunge movement a few more times.

A strong body is important for many reasons. The truth is, strengthened muscles can help ease the overall stress that is put on the heart (via Prevention).

Stretching and improving flexibility are necessary for effectively doing other types of workouts

Finally, when thinking about heart health and wellness in general, be sure to regularly stretch. The more flexible your body is, the easier it will be to do other moves. Exercises such as yoga, tai chi, Pilates, and pre-workout warm-ups also improve core muscles and balance, as well as fight off the chance of suffering from cramps and other discomfort when working out, as reported by Healthline.

"If you have a good musculoskeletal foundation, that enables you to do the exercises that help your heart," says Kerry J. Stewart, a Johns Hopkins exercise physiologist. And, since these exercises help in the areas of balance and stability, they can also make your moves more precise and effective and can help prevent falls.

As pointed out by Prevention, these slow and thoughtful exercises lower blood pressure, too, as even blood vessels become more elastic as the heart gets even stronger.