A person jumping rope.

3 Types of Heart-Healthy Exercises

Heart Exercises

The heart is an organ largely composed of specialized muscles called cardiac muscles. The rhythmic contraction of the heart’s muscle fibers is responsible for pumping oxygenated blood throughout the body. Just like any other muscle, the heart needs exercise to keep it as healthy and efficient as a pump. This article will discuss heart exercises that are recommended to live a healthy life.

Physical Activity vs. Exercise: What is the Difference?

Physical activity is defined as moving any muscle for any reason. Exercise can be differentiated from plain physical activity because exercise has a structure. While standing up from your couch and walking towards the fridge to get a drink can be called physical activity, it is not exercise. Frequency, intensity, time, and type of movement are the elements that are taken into consideration when determining if a physical movement is an exercise. This is the F.I.T.T. principle of exercise.

The F.I.T.T. principle applies to any form of exercise. This principle can be used as a general guide to reap its benefits and maximize its potential effects on health:

  • Frequency: refers to the number of times the activity is performed each week.
  • Intensity: is the level of vigor at which the activity is performed.
  • Time (duration): length of time that the activity is performed. Generally, bouts of exercise that last for at least 10 minutes are added together to give a total time duration for a given day.
  • Type: refers to the focus of the activity being performed, e.g., cardiovascular/aerobic, resistance/strength, flexibility, and balance exercises.

Types of Exercises

Different types of exercises are essential to achieve overall fitness. Both aerobic exercise and strength/resistance training directly contribute to heart health. Flexibility and balance exercises also contribute to overall wellness through optimizing movements needed for aerobic and strength training. However, they do not directly contribute to heart health.

Aerobic Exercises

Aerobic exercise, also known as “cardio,” is any type of physical activity that makes the heart beat faster and contract harder to deliver more oxygen to the different muscles being worked. Regular aerobic exercise is beneficial to the cardiovascular system (the heart and the blood vessels). It makes the delivery of blood throughout the body more efficient by improving the heart’s capability to distribute as much blood with minimal work. You can use the F.I.T.T principle to know the minimal aerobic exercise to achieve its benefits:

  • Frequency: Accumulated time of 150 minutes per week. This can be divided depending on the duration of each exercise session.
  • Intensity: Moderate intensity activity objectively measured using maximal heart rate or subjectively estimated using the talk-test, wherein you can carry on a conversation, but you can't sing while doing the exercise.
  • Time: Minimum of 20 minutes per day of continuous physical activity. You may have multiple exercise sessions in a day.
  • Type: Examples of aerobic exercises include brisk walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, jumping rope, and playing basketball.

Resistance (Strength) Training Exercises

Resistance training improves the body composition by increasing muscle mass while decreasing excess fat. Excess body fat, especially around the belly, can be a risk factor for metabolic syndrome, diabetes and increases the risk for heart attack.

Decreasing body fat percentage while increasing the muscle mass through resistance training vastly impacts heart health by raising HDL (good cholesterol) and lowering LDL (bad cholesterol). Ultimately, it decreases the risk of having heart attacks. To achieve these benefits, follow these guidelines:

  • Frequency: training of each major muscle group is recommended for two or more days a week, with at least 48 hours separating each muscle group.
  • Intensity (reps and sets): two to four sets with 8 to 12 repetitions per set (i.e., 60% to 80% of one-rep max) with progressive overload (higher resistance and/or reps)
  • Time: Minimum of 20 minutes per day of continuous physical activity. You may have multiple exercise sessions in a day.
  • Type: Multi-joint, functional exercises are preferred over single-joint exercises. Examples of these movements include squats, pushups, deadlifts, and shoulder presses.

Flexibility and Balance Exercises

Mobility is the ability of your joints and muscles to move within their expected range of motion to execute a specific movement. Although heart health does not directly benefit from performing consistent flexibility and balance exercises, it will vastly improve your body's mobility. Ultimately, it will also help you do aerobic exercises and resistance exercises, which will improve your heart's efficiency:

  • Frequency: Every day, including before and after exercise sessions.
  • Time: Minimum of two minutes per muscle being stretched/mobilized.
  • Type: Examples of flexibility and balance exercises include yoga and Pilates.

Remember to prioritize safety when deciding to start any exercise routine. If you have any known medical conditions or are unsure of your overall general health, you should consult with your physician before beginning any strenuous physical activity.


Heart exercises are of prime importance because it adds to your body’s longevity and resilience from disease. Incorporating different forms of exercise in your lifestyle will make your heart healthy for years to come. Exercise safely, regularly, and most of all, enjoy what you are doing; after all, the exercise routines that matter are the ones that are performed consistently.

Article Resources