Weight training works around gaining bone health and burning calories, all of which contributes to a healthy heart Image Credit: iStock

Research shows that people who do not exercise are almost twice as likely to develop heart diseases than people who work out. You don’t have to be an athlete to protect your heart. Just remember that burning calories, reducing LDL (bad cholesterol) and boosting HDL (good cholesterol) are keys to a healthy heart.

The heart works continuously, pumping blood around the body to keep us alive and healthy. Elevating your heart rate through regular exercise will help you burn calories and become fitter, stronger and healthier. Combine this with a balanced diet to keep your weight in check and you are well on the way to an active and agile body. 

When it comes to an active lifestyle, even a brisk walk for 30 minutes daily should suffice. But if you are looking for alternatives to strengthen your heart, these simple exercises will help. 

Remember, your heart is a muscle that needs to be kept healthy with regular exercise and a balanced diet, and it is never too late to start exercising. Start taking care of your heart before it stops taking care of you!

1. Circuit training

Break the monotony with circuit training. Mixing cardio in aerobics lightens up the schedule and gets your adrenalin pumping. You could also choose five to ten strength training exercises and perform one set of each, doing lower weight and higher repetitions while moving quickly from one exercise to the next. This keeps you motivated and improves your muscular strength, endurance and heart health. 

2. Cycling

Cycling is great for improving heart health, increases your leg strength and endurance and is recommended for all age groups. A great way to measure your workouts is using mobile apps that use GPS to track your route and record everything such as distance, speed and time. Every time you ride, try adding another kilometre to your last ride. Over time you will see major improvement in your health.

3. Sports

There is ample movement in many sports activities. Squash is a fast-paced form of cardiovascular exercise, which challenges the heart to keep up. You are forced to react quickly and perform a lot of sprints in order to keep the game alive. Beach volleyball is also a great form of exercise for improving your heart function. Having to run on the sand makes it much more intense, making the heart work harder.

4. Weight training

Weight training is critical for people with heart disease. It works around gaining bone health, burning calories and building muscle mass, all of which contributes to a healthy heart. There is nothing like using your own body weight to train. Tuck jumps, lunges and planks — there is a lot you can do. Just increase the tempo once your body gets used to the routine to ensure your heart is being pumped enough. 

5. Swimming

Apart from the obvious improved fitness levels, swimming dramatically develops your heart strength with the added benefit of a reduced resting heart rate. To optimise its benefits, you should use the number of pool lengths or time as a gauge of your workout duration. Casual swimming provides benefits only to the extremely unfit. Focus on lane swimming to achieve cardiovascular fitness.

- The writer is Fitness Manager at Fitness First for ladies at Uptown Mirdif