5 Heart Healthy Activities for Adults Who Don't Work Out

Here are five activities that anyone can do as the first step toward living a longer, heart-healthy life.

Everyone knows that exercise is critical for ensuring a healthy heart and a longer life. And as people age, keeping up their  heart strength becomes even more important. According to the CDC, heart disease kills 610,000 Americans every year, making it the leading cause of death among both men and women.

Cardio protective exercises can make your heart stronger, just like they make your other muscles stronger, and a healthy heart can beat longer and more efficiently. Exercising for at least 30 minutes a week can go a long ways toward extending your lifespan, especially if you have not worked out as much as you should have up to now.

Here are five activities anyone can do as the first step toward living a longer, heart-healthy life.

1. Walking

Walking

The exercise that nearly everyone does is the most important one of all. The American Heart Association observes that "walking briskly can lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes as much as running."

Walking lowers your risk of heart disease as much as running and carries less risk of injury. If you have not worked out regularly, start by walking for 30 minutes or less per day. Once you get to that point, you can start interval training. That 's a short period of fast walking, often for one minute, followed by a longer period at a more leisurely pace.

2. Swimming

Swimmer

Health experts rave about the health benefits of swimming, and there are plenty of reasons for it. Swimming uses all of the muscles in the body. As a result, your heart works harder to supply blood to everywhere, which strengthens it over the long term.

And  though jogging or weight training can pose an injury risk if done incorrectly, swimming poses minimal injury risk because the water cushions your limbs and body. That's why Olympic-level swimmers like Michael Phelps can work out every day, even on Christmas.

In order to get the most out of swimming, you should also do interval training. It's fine to swim for a certain number of laps or amount of time, but the best workouts are those that aim for a target heart rate, as detailed here.

3. Practicing yoga

It is easy to think of yoga as New Age hippie nonsense, but there are real benefits to breathing properly and practicing the correct poses. Studies have shown that yoga can have a beneficial effect on fighting obesity and preventing heart ailments.

Yoga can have real effects on reducing stress, and stress is one of the biggest factors preventing a healthy heart. By helping you calm down and meditate, yoga can also improve your lifestyle, as it can prevent depression and other mental diseases.

Although yoga can do a lot to improve your health, it is not a direct substitute for swimming or other aerobic exercise in and of itself. A good yoga session after a workout is a great way to wind down, but don't forget to do the workout.

4. Keeping active throughout the Day

Stairs

One of the biggest problems in our modern health culture is that we view exercise as something we do for only a couple of hours per day. Those who have preexisting cardiovascular issues may not want to train without a device that features monitoring blood pressure. Exercising for an hour or two will not help much if you spend the rest of your day sitting around. An active lifestyle, in which you are constantly moving, is critical to ensuring a healthy body and heart.

Moving more can be difficult in our sedentary lifestyles, but there are plenty of small things anyone can do. Stand instead of sit. Walk up the stairs instead of taking the escalator or elevator. Cook instead of eating out. Activities like these may not seem like they make a difference, but they add up over every day just as much as a period of exercise.

5. Not doing too much

Stretch

While exercise is generally good for your heart, you can make things worse or even suffer a heart attack if you try too hard. For example, many people drop dead from heart attacks while shoveling snow. Performing such a strenuous activity after not having exercised for months or years can be a sudden shock to your heart, with catastrophic results.

If you are starting a new exercise program, start slow. People may say that pain is weakness leaving the body, but it's also a warning sign that something is wrong. Know your limits, warm up before every workout, and acknowledge that you are out of shape. If you pretend that you are fine, you will do exercises you're not ready for, which could have dangerous consequences.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: SWIMMING | YOGA | INTERVAL TRAINING | WALKING