Want to naturally lower your blood pressure, strengthen your heart, and reach a healthy weight? If you answered yes, you might want to give one of these heart-healthy exercises a try. Regular physical activity can boost your health in a variety of ways, according to experts.1 And the benefits extend beyond your physical health: Research indicates exercise might even boost your mood.2
Read on for our top 5 heart-healthy workouts and how you can get started today.
Remember to always consult your physician before starting a new exercise program.
How much exercise do you actually need?
Before we dive into the best heart-healthy exercises, it helps to know how much exercise you need to reap the health benefits.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise a week (or a combo of the two).3
And don’t forget muscle-strengthening exercises! The CDC also recommends integrating activities that work all of your major muscle groups (think legs, arms, core) at least two times a week.3
If this sounds like a lot, don’t worry, it’s not as much as you think. Just 30 minutes a day, five times a week will put you at the 150-minute mark. And if you’re just starting out, or your schedule is hectic, try fitting in small bouts of exercise throughout the day. A 15-minute walk in the morning and 15 minutes of yoga before bed is a great example of how you can start small.
The Top 5 Heart-Healthy Workouts
Ready to get moving? Here are our top picks of exercises to improve your heart health.
You don’t need to run a marathon to boost your cardiovascular health — walking can be just as beneficial and can be easier on your joints. In fact, depending on the duration, intensity and frequency, walking could reduce certain factors linked to cardiovascular health such as cholesterol, blood pressure, obesity and inflammation.4
How to get started: The best part about walking is that it can be done virtually anywhere, so no matter where you are or what you’re doing, you can probably find some time to squeeze in a walk. If you’re ready to start a walking routine, we suggest investing in a comfortable and supportive pair of walking shoes. Other than that, throw on some workout clothes and you’re ready to go!
If you’re new to exercise, start small. Perhaps it’s just 10-15 minutes of easy walking to start the day and another 5-10 minutes after lunch or dinner. Continue to build until you reach 30 minutes a day. Just remember to take it slow: Increasing your intensity and duration too quickly could lead to injury or burnout. Try adding 5 minutes a week to gradually build up to your goal.
Want more tips? Check out these 12 tips to start a walking routine you can stick with.
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Swimming is a total body aerobic workout that’s gentle on your joints and great for your heart. Plus, it’s an excellent way to support your weight loss efforts: Just 30 minutes of moderate swimming can burn up to 266 calories for a 185-pound person.5
How to get started: If it’s accessible, your neighborhood community pool is a great place to dive in, or if you live near a natural body of water, even better! Just like walking, you’ll want to ease into swimming. Developing your breathing technique can be an added challenge of this workout, but you’ll get the hang of it with a little practice.
Start with two laps or a couple of minutes if you’re out in open water. Take a break for 30 seconds to a minute and then repeat. Make sure to stop and rest if you’re ever feeling fatigued. Build your way up to swimming continuously for 5-10 minutes.
If you’re completely new to swimming — make sure to consult a trained professional before giving it a try. And don’t hit the pool or beach without a lifeguard on duty.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels
Hop right on, this is one classic activity that’s a fun way to get around town! It’s also a great way to build muscle, strengthen your heart and work on your balance.6 Just make sure to wear your helmet and be cautious of busy roads.
To add more of a challenge, take your bike on a hilly path or push your pace to get a real aerobic workout.
How to get started: Before you hit the road, make sure your tires are pumped and your breaks (both the front and the back) are working properly. If you’re new to cycling, you may benefit from scoping out a dedicated bike path away from traffic.
Once you’re riding, make sure you feel comfortable on the bike (if your bike seat is too high or too low it could cause knee pain). You may find it easier to ride for longer periods of time since cycling is easy on your joints. Start on flat ground and work your way to hillier terrain once you’re ready to crank up the intensity.
4. Strength Training
You might not think of strength training as a heart-healthy workout, but it is! A 2019 study of almost 13,000 adults published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that lifting weights for up to an hour a week could reduce your risk of stroke or a heart attack by 40-70%.7 And strength training just once a week was associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.7
How to get started: You don’t have to lift heavy weights to gain the health benefits of strength training — using your body weight is an excellent way to get started. Simple exercises such as squats, pushups, crunches and wall sits are a few examples of strength-building activities you can try. Try adding a few of these exercises to the end of your next cardio-focused workout.
For a more complete guide, check out these 6 Tips to Start a Strength Training Routine.
It’s time to take a deep breath and start stretching. According to the experts at John Hopkins, yoga can help lower your heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels.8 What’s more, one study found that overweight adults with metabolic syndrome were able to improve their blood pressure and reduce their body mass index when practicing yoga over 10-weeks.9 Yoga is also a great way to relieve stress and unwind.
How to get started: One of the best things about yoga is you really don’t need much equipment to get started. You can practice outside on the grass, or if you’re at home or in a studio, you can use a mat. If you want some extra stability, props like a yoga block or band can assist with more challenging poses. There are plenty of beginner yoga classes online that last 10 minutes to an hour and can range from beginner to advanced. Check one out and give it a try. Beginning your morning with an easy yoga class could be just what you need to set a positive tone for the day.
If you want more tips, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Yoga.
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We hope you give one of these five heart-healthy exercises a try! If you’re looking for more ways to get healthy and feel your best, Jenny Craig can help. With plans starting at just $12.99 a day, there’s never been a better time to get started. Discover your healthy meal plan now.
Elisa is a content marketing manager for Jenny Craig with over ten years of experience working in the health and fitness industry. She loves sharing her passion for living a balanced and healthy lifestyle. An endurance sports enthusiast, she is usually swimming in the pool, biking along the coast highway or running by the beach in her free time. Elisa holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University, Chico.
Favorite healthy snack: mozzarella string cheese with a Pink Lady apple
Reviewed by Briana Rodriquez, RDN
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: Peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and was written by an experienced health and lifestyle contributor and fact-checked by Briana Rodriquez, RDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Jenny Craig.
Our goal at Jenny Craig is to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics, so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content.
All articles undergo an extensive review process, and depending on topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Nutritionist, to ensure accuracy. This article contains trusted sources. All references are hyperlinked at the end of the article to take readers directly to the source.
Edited by Elisa - Jenny Craig