Whether you don’t have a gym nearby, don’t have the room for hefty equipment, or need simple at-home exercises to accommodate for injuries or an aging body, there is still plenty that you can do from home to help keep your heart in great condition. Luckily, the types of exercises that are best for your heart health are easy to do anywhere, and most don’t require any sort of equipment at all.
If your goal is to improve heart health, and you aren’t heading to a gym, then your first focus should be on cardio. While cardio isn’t the only thing you should focus on (lifting weights is also an important part of maintaining a strong heart), cardio can be done with no equipment, in very little space, by anyone of any fitness level. Here are some great cardio exercises you can do at home to improve your heart health:
Walking and Stair Climbing
Walking is the number one at-home exercise for just about everything. Whether you want to lose weight or you need to get your cholesterol down, taking a daily walk is a fantastic place to start. All you really need are shoes – and if you embrace the “barefoot lifestyle” that so many others are, you may not even need those. Simply walk around your neighborhood, or even get up and stay moving around your home while you tidy up. Set a pace that is brisk, but easy to maintain, and your heart rate will increase. This act strengthens your heart and keeps your veins flexible, lowering blood pressure.
Climbing the stairs can be easily worked into your walking routine if you live in an apartment building or a multi-story home. If not, find a walking route with an incline. This just adds a little more work for your cardiovascular system, making it work harder and thus becoming stronger.
You don’t need to be an expert yogi to perform a few basic yoga positions in your home. While aerobic exercise helps your heart by strengthening the muscle and the system, yoga helps by allowing the heart a chance to relax. Meditation can relieve stress, a major factor in developing heart disease, and the act can help lower blood pressure as well. Some of the best yoga poses for heart health include:
- Anything inverted, as these poses help calm brain activity and relieve stress. Try the “big toe pose” by bending at the waist to grab your big toes and allowing your head to hang between your arms.
- Seated bends, as these positions are often very relaxing to the hips and lower back, two places where we tend to carry stress. Try a simple head-to-knee forward bend with one leg extended and the other tucked in.
- The bridge pose, as it helps to strengthen your core (which supports your heart), open up the lungs to invite in more oxygen, and reduce a variety of common complaints like backaches, headaches, insomnia, and anxiety.
Make a daily practice of your favorite simple yoga poses, or check out free video websites to find beginner sequences that you can follow. There are many chair yoga sequences and “light” sequences designed for those who are disabled, elderly, or just brand new to yoga.
You don’t have to leave the house to get your heart pumping with your favorite song. In fact, dancing is one of the best types of aerobic exercise because you often don’t even realize you’re doing it. Simply turn on anything that gets you excited and move. No one needs to see you, so you’re free to move your body however you like. Just be sure to stay moving consistently for a few songs, and you’ve just accomplished a great workout.
Another good way to work a dance workout into your day is to turn on the tunes when you’re doing chores and dance through them. Who says you have to vacuum in a straight line?
Finally, there are many technologies that can be used in your home to help you get in a great workout. A good example is the Wii system, with its fitness programs disguised as games. Even Wii bowling can raise your heart rate enough to count as cardio, and the built-in measurement tools make it easy to keep track of your progress as your body changes.
Other types of technology that can help include pedometers, health trackers like fitbit, or just a DVD player and a few workout DVDs. Embrace these tools to help you get the most out of your at-home gym, or do it the old fashioned way. As long as your heart rate is regularly raised (and given a rest, such as with yoga), then you are doing what you need to do to protect and strengthen it.