Heart, the most vital organ of our body which is crucial for our survival. To stay healthy and fit, it is very important to keep our heart healthy. The heart pumps blood across our body, which provides the body with the nutrients and oxygen necessary for functioning. The heart also receives deoxygenated blood carrying metabolic waste products from the body and pumps the same to the lungs for oxygenation and works to maintain the body’s blood pressure.
The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests avoiding 5 things to keep our heart healthy. These are unhealthy diet, drinking too much alcohol, tobacco, air pollution, sedentary lifestyle.
On World Heart Day 2023, The CSR Journal takes a look into the kinds of workout which should be done daily to keep our heart healthy. The theme for World Heart Day this year is ‘Use Heart, Know Heart’.
What is better than a walk in the open air under the sky early in the morning? Walking is the best exercise which is suitable for people of all age groups be it 8 or 80. Walking will not only help you burn calories but is also the ideal workout for a healthy heart.
Talking about health benefits, walking leads to increased cardiovascular (heart) and pulmonary (lung) fitness, walking reduces risk of heart disease and stroke, walking helps to manage high blood pressure, high cholesterol, joint and muscular pain or stiffness, as well as diabetes. Apart from the above, walking also strengthens our bones and improves body balance. Doctors recommend brisk walking at least for 20-40 minutes everyday. A recent study claims that walking between 6,000 and 9,000 steps daily can substantially reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases for older adults.
Swimming is one of the best forms of aerobic exercises which help to keep our heart healthy. Swimming can be great for the heart, lungs, blood vessels, and muscles. Swimming enhances the heart’s efficiency to pump blood, supply it to the body and use oxygen more efficiently. Swimming also helps to keep our blood pressure in control. Swimming also helps us to breathe faster and longer, improves heart rate and enhances efficiency of the lungs.
At least 30 minutes of swimming is recommended daily, which will not only keep your heart healthy but also increase your body’s muscle strength& flexibility, boost blood circulation & metabolism, as well as burn calories, thus helping you to stay in shape. Swimming also has amazing benefits for mental health, as it helps one to relax and calm the mind, thus helping to flight stress and anxiety.
If there is a relatively empty lane near your home, or a park, just get a bicycle and start pedalling! Yes, it is advisable to avoid cycling in congested roads and polluted areas. Cycling has immense benefits not only for our heart but for our overall health.
Cycling not only strengthens our heart muscles, but also lowers resting pulse and reduces blood fat levels. Research has also associated cycling with improved lung function. Regular cycling stimulates and improves our heart, lungs and blood circulation, thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke, high blood pressure and heart attack. Cycling also helps to lose weight and stay fit. Apart from cardiovascular fitness, cycling also improves joint health, and muscle strength.
India is infamously called the ‘diabetes capital of the world’. A study by the Indian Council of Medical Research has revealed that India has 101 million diabetics, while there are at least 136 million pre-diabetic individuals who need prevention. The rate of type 2 diabetes is increasing and is a serious public health concern not only in India but also across the globe. Lack of physical activity is a major reason leading to this condition. A research conducted in Finland revealed that people who cycled for more than 30 minutes every day had a 40 per cent lower risk of developing diabetes.
Dancing is not only great for physical fitness and mental health but also boosts cardiovascular health. Any form of dancing enhances coordination between different parts of our body, boosts creativity, flexibility and is a great way to stay active and fit. Research has also associated dancing with reduced risk of dementia.
Zumba is increasingly becoming popular across the world as an everyday workout to enhance fitness and burn calories. Zumba enhances mind-body coordination, tones our body by working on the muscles and can be great for weight loss. Talking about heart health, Zumba helps to increase heart rate, which in turn aids our body to move oxygen and blood to the muscles more efficiently, thus helping our body to burn more calories and reduce cholesterol. Zumba is amazing for mental health also as it helps to fight stress.
Weight training/Resistance training
Resistance training (also called strength training or weight training) refers to the use of resistance to muscular contraction to build strength, anaerobic endurance and size of skeletal muscles. Building different muscles in our body supports our heart. Training with weights helps us to build muscle mass and burn fat. Apart from working out with free weights like Medicine balls or sand bags, hand weights, dumbbells or barbells at the gym, the best form of weight training happens with workouts like push-ups, squats, chin-ups and pull-ups which are done using our own body weight. These help in building muscle and contribute to our bone and heart health.
Research has shown that a combination of aerobic exercise and resistance work may help raise HDL (good) cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol in our body. At least two alternate days per week of resistance training is recommended for overall fitness of the body.
Resistance training has amazing health benefits. It improves bone density, muscle strength and tone, increases flexibility and balance, boosts stamina, and aids prevention or control of chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, back pain, depression and obesity. It also helps to improve our sleep and fight insomnia.
Healthy lifestyle for a healthy heart
However, workout alone will not be able to boost heart health if a healthy lifestyle overall is not maintained. These include eating healthy, staying physically active at least 30-60 minutes daily, avoiding obesity, getting adequate sleep, avoiding smoking or other forms of tobacco, avoiding excessive alcohol consumption, maintaining healthy levels of blood pressure and cholesterol and fighting stress.
A diet comprising seasonal fruits, green vegetables, beans & legumes, whole grains, low-fat dairy foods and cooked in less oil or other fat is very healthy for the heart. Excess salt, sugar or sweetened beverage, refined carbohydrates, alcohol, processed meats, saturated fat, which is found in red meat, full-fat dairy products, palm oil and coconut oil and trans-fat, should be minimal in our daily diet.
It is recommended to avoid eating a heavy meal at dinner time in order to boost heart health. Also, it is advisable to walk or stroll after dinner and go to bed at least 2-3 hours after dinner as sleeping soon after dinner has been associated with increased risk of stroke.