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Get Moving: Heart Healthy Exercises

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As you may have heard, February was American Heart Month, an entire 28 days dedicated to raising national awareness of heart disease and educating the public in ways to prevent it. Although there are many contributing factors to overall heart health, one of the most effective ways to prevent heart disease is exercise. Movement in general is great for your heart: It gets the blood flowing, expanding the veins and arteries in your circulatory system, bringing wave after wave of fresh oxygen into your brain. But specifically focused exercise is even better, and making it part of your weekly routine will lower your chances of heart disease like few other things can. To help you on your journey to heart health, we've compiled a list of physical activities sure to keep you (and your doctor) happy.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
High Intensity Interval Training is an exercise method that is currently taking the world by storm. The concept is simple: Instead of following the typical exercise pattern of short bursts of intensity followed by long periods of rest, the equation is flipped. HIIT instructors teach shorter classes, adding much longer periods of intense energy expenditure followed by carefully calculated periods of rest. The goal is to maintain a high (but stable) heart rate throughout the exercise session, and the results can be dramatic. HIIT newbies experience high rates of concentrated fat loss and consistent gains in strength, agility, and overall muscle vitality. This great news for anyone looking for a boost in heart health, keeping a safely elevated heart rate for extended periods of time ensures that your heart will be working effectively when you need it most.

If you prefer your exercise in a pool, there's good news. Swimming is an excellent way to maintain heart health. Although any method of swimming can provide decent levels of physical activity, distance swimming (or laps in a pool) will provide the most consistent health benefits. Not only is swimming a great way to work your muscles and get your blood pumping, the repeated act of controlling your breath during a long swim does wonders for your cardiovascular system. Every time you take a deep breath, your lungs expand and push oxygenated blood into your arteries. Now, repeat that over a few laps, in conjunction with the calorie burning power of continual movement, and you've got yourself a winning equation. Distance swimming will help your heart move blood more efficiently and allow your body to help remove some of the blood based toxins known to induce heart disease.

Spin is all the rage these days, and rightfully so. There aren't that many workout classes out there that combine huge amounts of calorie burning exercise, a fun and energetic atmosphere, and a passionate community into one experience. You haven't lived until you've sweated it out for 60 minutes on a stationary bike, fighting through fatigue and exhaustion only to barely make it to the finish line. But once you do, the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment is immense. Not only do spin classes provide you a great way to burn calories and get in shape, they make it fun, much more fun than sweating it out by yourself somewhere. If your heart isn't pounding after you finish your first spin class (in a good way!), you've done something wrong.

Strength Training
Believe it or not, the tried and true methods of strength training can do wonders for your heart. When most people think of cardiovascular health, they say to themselves, "Oh, I have to run mile after mile on the treadmill or elliptical." Well, I'm here to tell you that is not the case. While both running and stair climbing can provide positive results for your overall health, there's more than one way to metaphorically skin a cat. Lifting weights, especially in a controlled fashion, can elevate your heart rate, dilate your blood vessels, and get your blood flowing just as well as any other type of exercise. There's a reason you always see seasoned weightlifters in the gym with blood vessels practically popping out of their arms, the repetitive movements of weight lifting get your blood rushing and your heart pounding like few other types of exercise can. With consistent weight lifting, you'll achieve better circulation throughout your entire body, a lower and safer resting heart rate, and higher levels of oxygen found in your blood, all excellent components of overall hearth health. So next time you hit the gym, pump some iron! See how you feel after a nice, long workout.

There you have it: Four types of exercise guaranteed to get your blood pumping and your moving away from heart disease. The bottom line is: Get moving! You're much more likely to develop heart disease living a sedentary lifestyle, so get out there and be active! Your heart will thank you later.