You know that exercise is good for your heart health. That's why you’re trying to fit it into your busy schedule. But, most days you feel you just don’t have enough time for a good workout. So, you keep putting it off and end up feeling guilty.
Does this sound familiar? Well, you’re not alone. According to the World Health Organisation, one in four adults don’t exercise enough.
But, doing regular exercise might be easier than you think. A good workout doesn’t have to take up a lot of time. Plus, you can choose from many different types of exercise.
Here are some scientifically backed tips that may help you to keep your heart healthy and reduce your risk of heart disease.
TRY SHORT HIGH-INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING
Doing two or three short high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts per week may decrease your risk of heart disease.
Researchers from New Zealand and the UK reviewed the data of 32 different studies. These studies had all investigated the effect of an HIIT workout on cardiorespiratory fitness. This type of fitness refers to how well your heart and lungs can supply oxygen to your workout muscles.
In total, these studies included about 350 people who had done two to three short HIIT workouts a week, for at least 2 weeks.
These HIIT workouts consisted of four to six repetitions of 30 seconds high-intensity exercise followed by about four minutes of recovery. Some sprinted on a treadmill during those 30 seconds. Others sprinted on a bicycle.
The research team found that people who had done about 13 HIIT workouts had increased their cardiorespiratory fitness.
Even better news is that researchers reported the higher your cardiorespiratory fitness, the lower your risk of heart disease.
This means that by doing about 13 HIIT workouts, you may already decrease your risk of heart disease.
An HIIT workout could be a great option when you’re short on time. But, as always with any type of higher intensity exercise, you might want to get the clearance from your doctor first.
DO SOME MODERATE-INTENSITY PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
Thirty minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity five days a week may keep your heart in good shape into old age. This could be anything from brisk walking, playing recreational badminton and dancing to gardening.
A recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology followed 102 people to investigate the effect of exercise on heart health. For 20 years, they recorded how often these people were physically active.
Some people had exercised two to three days a week during the past 20 years. Some had done at least 30 minutes of physical activity for four to five days a week. Others hadn’t exercised more than once a week.
At the end of the study, the researchers measured the size and volume of their heart by magnetic resonance imaging.
Although your heart tends to shrink slightly as you get older, the research team found quite the opposite.
They found that the hearts of people who had exercised more than three times a week were the same size as of people half their age. Plus, it was stronger. With each contraction, their heart was able to eject more blood, compared to the people who exercised less.
These results are exciting, as you may be able to prevent you heart from ageing simply by doing moderate-intensity physical activity.
But, if you like to mix things up a little, then the next option may be just for you.
COMBINE THE TWO
Just 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity four days a week plus an HIIT workout may reduce your risk of heart disease.
A study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine investigated whether substituting one exercise session with an HIIT workout affects your cardiorespiratory fitness (that type of fitness that is linked to your risk of heart disease).
The researchers followed 20 people for 12 weeks. During this time, one group of participants did moderate-intensity exercise. For 15 minutes, they brisk-walked on a treadmill and cycled for 15 minutes, five days a week.
The second group also walked and cycled. But, only four days a week. On the fifth day, they did an HIIT workout instead. This consisted of eight to 12 repetitions of 60 seconds of running followed by 150 seconds of active recovery.
During the study, the research team measured their heart rate. Plus, the percentage of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the participants’ breath.
They found that both groups significantly improved their cardiorespiratory fitness. They further reported that adding HIIT to your workout could potentially reduce your heart disease risk by 18 percent.
So, next time you feel you don’t have enough time to do a workout, try one (or more) of these exercise options.
Don’t let all-or-nothing thinking get in the way of keeping your heart healthy. Remember: doing some exercise is always better than nothing!
What kind of exercise do you do to keep your heart healthy?
I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.