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Health & Wellness

Heart Health: Five Exercises to Keep You Pumping

By Ochsner Lafayette General
February 24, 2021

Being physically active is a great first step towards a healthier heart. Next to a well-balanced diet, It’s one of our most effective tools to strengthening our muscles, keeping our weight under control and warding off artery damage that can lead to heart attack or a stroke. In fact, according to the American Heart Association, if you don’t exercise you’re more likely to develop heart disease than someone who does. If you have a history of heart disease, or just worry about your heart health, 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week is recommended to for maximum efficiency at improving your heart’s overall health.

Need help getting started? Here are five easy exercises to mix up your fitness routine and get your blood pumping:

Resistance Training

One of the biggest benefits of weight lifting is lowering the probability of life-altering heart attacks and strokes. A recent study shared by journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise showed that weight training may reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke. If you regularly lift weights, you reap these benefits—even if you aren't regularly participating in aerobic exercise such as hiking or running.

Because strength training increases lean muscle mass, it gives your cardiovascular system places to send the blood being pumped. This results in less pressure on your arteries, which helps reduce the chances of heart-related problems. With consistent strength training, you’re likely to stay heart healthy for years to come.

Interval Training

The number one reason people say they can't stick with an exercise regimen is that they're just too busy. Enter high-intensity interval training, or HIIT for short. A growing body of research is showing that bursts of high-intensity activity can get your heart and lungs just as fit in less time, compared with the traditional prescription of 30 minutes a day of moderate-intensity exercise five days a week.

Interval training allows you to accomplish the same amount of exercise "work" in less time. That could make workouts easier to fit into a busy day or open a time slot to add some strength training. If you can reduce your moderate 30-minute workout to 15 or 20 minutes of interval training, the cardiovascular benefit should be about the same.

As fitness improves, you should feel better, with greater endurance and more get-up-and-go. However, cardiovascular training doesn't significantly boost muscle strength or power.


Swimming works the heart and lungs. This trains the body to use oxygen more efficiently, which is generally reflected in declines in the resting heart rate and breathing rate. It uses the arms, the legs, and other muscle groups in between. This improves muscle strength and flexibility.

Water supports and cushions the body, eliminating the kind of pounding associated with running. Because it's easy on the joints and muscles, swimming is often recommended for people with arthritis and other chronic conditions. The resistance of water also allows you to work out vigorously with little chance of injury.

There's also a relaxing, meditative side to swimming. It can come with letting your mind drift as, bathed by soothing water, you focus on your breathing and your movements. This stress-busting aspect could contribute to the cardiovascular benefits of swimming.


Yoga is known for improving flexibility and balance. But did you know that yoga can also boost cardiovascular health? The poses and stretches performed in yoga can also reduce chronic pain. Many of the postures are weight-bearing postures, which help strengthen bones and muscles.

Yoga for cardiovascular health includes simple poses to promote flexibility, stress relief, and relaxation. It can also improve heart health by increasing circulation and blood flow. In addition, practicing yoga can help lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels, as well as the heart rate—which can all add up to a lower risk of hypertension, stroke and heart disease.


A 2016 study in the journal Circulation found that people who biked regularly had about 15% fewer heart attacks than did noncyclists. Even as little as half an hour of biking per week was linked to lower rates of heart disease. Another study found that bicycle commuters were less likely to have conditions that raise heart disease risk (including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or prediabetes) compared with people who used public transit or drove to work.

Cycling is mainly an aerobic activity, which means that your heart, blood vessels and lungs all get a workout. You will breathe deeper, perspire and experience increased body temperature, which will improve your overall fitness level.

Need additional help getting (and keeping) your heart health in check? Schedule a visit with your primary care doctor today! From in-depth analysis of your heart's current state to treatments designed with you in mind, they're your heart health heroes! 

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