The 5 most beneficial exercises for your heart

Sunrise Senior Living  |  February 28, 2017
Seniors need to stay active to promote good heart health, and these exercises can help.

Maintaining a healthy heart is an essential pursuit for any older adult, and staying active is an important step in achieving this goal.

Exercise helps keep the heart working well, blood flowing evenly and avoids the buildup of plaque and other issues that can severely compromise cardiovascular health. But not all workouts are appropriate for older adults.

Instead, seniors should select activities that aren't too physically demanding and focus on the right areas that need it more than others. That means opting for a well-rounded approach to staying fit rather than intense strength training. These five exercises in particular are helpful for promoting good heart health:

1. Swimming
As Prevention notes, activities that engage the entire body in a consistent manner are most effective. Swimming is a great exercise because it's possible to work at your own pace and the water provides gentle support.

The heart has to work to send oxygenated blood through the arms, legs and core, which results in the heart becoming stronger. Also since there is  little physical impact, there's much less risk than other full-body exercises.

2. Walking
Like swimming, walking is one of the best ways to get regular physical activity without adding too much stress or risk. The Harvard School of Public Health found that five 30-minute walking sessions a week is enough to improve cardiovascular health for most people.

Importantly, both walking and swimming can be year-round pursuits at nearby fitness or community centers. That makes it easy to maintain an exercise schedule. Older adults may want to workout with friends or join an exercise group to make the entire process more social and enjoyable as well.

3. Yoga
Although yoga doesn't represent a primary form of exercise for anyone trying to improve heart health, it's nevertheless an essential activity to consider. As Dr. Mala Cunningham, a counseling psychologist and founder of Cardiac Yoga, told the American Heart Association, there are a number of ways the exercise helps cardiovascular health.

"Yoga is designed to bring about increased physical, mental and emotional well-being," Cunningham said. "Hand in hand with leading a heart-healthy lifestyle, it really is possible for a yoga-based model to help prevent or reverse heart disease. It may not completely reverse it, but you will definitely see benefits."

Yoga is a relaxing but effective way to promote good heart health.Yoga is a relaxing but effective way to promote good heart health.

4. Weight training
Older adults should consider injury risk before starting a weightlifting regimen, but this can be another effective way to improve heart health. When done correctly, the activity helps with cardiovascular health as well, and helps the body better process calories, fat and sugar. Muscles that are stronger are more effective at these tasks and can reduce the amount of work the heart has to do.

Seniors should start with small weights and be careful before moving on to more serious workouts. A doctor or a fitness professional can be helpful in crafting the right workout plan.

5. Staying active around the home
Aside from formal exercise, household chores and activities can represent a way to stay fit. The American Heart Association suggested being proactive about work that needs to be done around the house as a way to get in regular physical activity.

At the same time, there are small changes to daily life that can also promote good health. Standing while on the phone, taking the dog out for an extra walk or stretching while watching TV are simple ways to add a little more activity into the day.

Older adults need to be mindful about selecting the right sort of exercise. This questionnaire can be helpful in evaluating an individual's specific needs.

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