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Heart Healthy Exercises

3 Kinds of Exercise That Boost Heart Health

Being physically active is a major step toward heart health. It’s one of your most effective tools for strengthening the heart muscle, keeping your weight under control and warding off the artery damage from high cholesterol, high blood sugar and high blood pressure that can lead to heart attack or stroke.

It is also true that different types of exercise are needed to provide complete fitness. “Aerobic exercise and resistance training are the most important for heart health,” says Johns Hopkins exercise physiologist Kerry J. Stewart.

Here’s how different types of exercise benefit you:

  • Aerobic Exercise - "Aerobic exercise improves circulation, which results in lowered blood pressure and heart rate," Stewart says. In addition, it increases your overall aerobic fitness, as measured by a treadmill test, for example, and it helps your cardiac output (how well your heart pumps). Aerobic exercise also reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes and, if you already live with diabetes, helps you control your blood glucose.
  • Resistance Training - "Resistance training has a more specific effect on body composition," Stewart says. For people who are carrying a lot of body fat (including a big belly, which is a risk factor for heart disease), it can help reduce fat and create leaner muscle mass. Research shows that a combination of aerobic exercise and resistance work may help raise HDL (good) cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.
  • Strength, Flexibility, & Balance - "Flexibility workouts, such as stretching, don’t directly contribute to heart health. What they do is benefit musculoskeletal health, which enables you to stay flexible and free from joint pain, cramping and other muscular issues. That flexibility is a critical part of being able to maintain aerobic exercise and resistance training," says Stewart.

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