You can’t tense your heart at will but, just as with your biceps, the right workout will improve its strength, shape and function. “Having a regular exercise routine is one of the best ways to strengthen your heart, which is one of the best things we can do for our health, ” says Peloton’s first Australian Instructor, Kirra Michel. “A regular exercise routine also helps our cardiovascular system work more efficiently, which once again, gives us more energy to undergo daily activities.”
A smart training programme doesn’t just slow down that process – it improves the structure of your heart. Specifically, it increases the size and efficiency of your left ventricle, which receives oxygen-rich blood from your lungs and pumps it around your body.
New research has found that those who engage in sustained aerobic exercise, such as runners, tend to have spacious, elastic hearts. This reduces the risk of a heart attack. So far, so obvious.
But not all people we consider fit have hearts of this kind. For example, Baggish’s team found that some powerlifters have stiffer hearts, closer to those of sedentary people. Explosive training is all about withstanding pressure: producing sudden, intense muscle contractions that make blood pressure surge. To stop you from passing out, your heart grows thicker.
“The best workouts for this vary – anything from walking to running, dancing to boxing, cycling, HIIT to strength training and even yoga! It’s important to find the right balance for you. Choosing workouts that incorporate these different fields will help you stay in optimal health.”
In short? It’s not just whether you exercise that matters, but how you choose to do it. If you’re stuck for inspiration, try the workout belows. Bonus: it will give the muscles you can see a boost, too.
1. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)
A solid HIIT workout usually lasts 20 to 30 minutes, like many of the high-intensity classes offered on workout apps.
Leading cardiologist and member of the Peloton Health and Wellness Advisory Board, Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, says “high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, workouts are popular for a reason: Studies suggest that these types of workouts can deliver the same health benefits of a moderate workout in half the time. It’s true, but only if you strike the right balance and work out on a consistent basis”.
Run, cycle, skip or swim, aerobic exercise will help to boost your heart rate and improve your cardiovascular health. For those wanting to break a sweat a cycle or sprint is the way to go, but there are plenty of options for people who are in recovery or prefer to opt for a low-impact alternative such as walking or swimming.
Strength training may be a slower paced workout, but it is proven an effective way to improve your heart’s strength. When completing a strength workout it’s helpful to connect with a trainer, with over a quarter (24%) of Aussies say having a trainer/guide also supports their fitness aspirations and ensures you are performing proper techniques to reach optimal results.
4. Yoga & meditation
A workout for the body and the mind, yoga and forms of meditation are known to lower blood pressure, improving flexibility and balance. As one of Peloton’s popular yoga Instructors, Kirra Michel stresses the importance of incorporating balance in your exercise routine, “I might be biased to yoga as it’s my passion but find things you actually enjoy doing! If we don’t enjoy them, even slightly, it makes it harder to get these workouts in. With that being said, there are still some days I don’t feel like working out, but I know the benefit outweighs the cost. So, on those days, dedication and determination has to override!”