A beginner's guide to gentle heart-healthy exercise

Gently improve your heart's health with these easy exercises for beginners.

A beginner's guide to gentle heart-healthy exercise

Not only is the heart one of the body's most overlooked muscles, it's also one of the hardest-working. Unfortunately, the heart doesn't often get the care it needs until it's too late. By losing weight, gaining strength and increasing your overall fitness level, you can improve the quality and length of your life.

Benefits of exercise

Regular exercise provides a variety of benefits to practitioners of all ages. Not only does exercise help you burn calories, but it also lowers your blood pressure, reduces your cholesterol levels and gives you more energy overall.

Exercise makes you feel better both emotionally and physically, and it can help extend lifespans by a significant number of years. Gentle exercises are ideal for those just starting out with physical activity as well as those who cannot overexert themselves.

Stretching

Stretching can help you burn calories and shed the pounds until you're capable of tackling higher intensity workouts. It's important to build up to this level; failure to do so may mean placing a dangerous strain on the heart as you push your body farther than it's capable of going at that time. Static and explosive stretching can be useful for extending mobility and reaching further, thus improving your ability to perform the stretches.

A basic exercise to try is the calf stretch. Stand at arm's length from the wall and lean down with one leg while keeping the other straight. Use the wall for support and lower yourself as far down as you can.

The knee-to-chest stretch is another easy stretch to try. Lay on the floor on your back and bring your knee as close to your chest as you can, using your arms to pull the leg back slightly farther than it can go on its own.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is a set of ancient Chinese exercises consisting of slow, controlled movements. While it is a very low-impact and gentle exercise, Tai Chi can have enormous benefits for the average person, including increased strength, endurance and weight loss.

By shedding excess weight, a person can ease the strain that the extra pounds place on on their heart. The effort involved in the slow and deliberate movements can be taxing for those in and out of shape, making it an effective exercise for anyone, no matter their current fitness level.

Weightlifting

Most people associate weightlifting with gaining weight and bulk, but it's a very important part of losing weight and improving heart health through better endurance and overall strength. Weight lifting doesn't have to include heavy weights, either; it's better for a person to start with a weight they can comfortably lift and increase as time goes on.

Regardless of a person's level of fitness, taking on too much too soon can put unnecessary strain on the heart. For those with delicate hearts, it is important to avoid overexertion. Unnecessary strain can lead to complications and serious health conditions.

Rather than starting off with a workout that's too intense and put your health at risk, begin with some simple stretches to improve your strength and flexibility. With gentle heart-friendly exercises, you'll feel better and recognize the health benefits as your body adapts to your new routine.

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