By Cathryn Finn RDN, LD

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States.1 One of the biggest risk factors for developing heart disease is living a sedentary lifestyle. Physical activity is a very important component of a healthy life and it is never too late to start an exercise routine. The benefits will make it worth the effort! This American Heart Month, we’re exploring the link between exercise and heart health.

Regular physical activity provides benefits to several aspects of your life, including improved cognitive function and sleep. Your mood will also likely improve because exercise can act as a stress reliever! Also, exercise can help you lose weight or manage your weight.2One of the biggest benefits of exercise is overall heart health and lowering your risk of developing heart disease. With that in mind, are you wondering how to start an exercise routine? First, let’s go over the basics.

There are four types of exercise and it is important to incorporate every type into your routine. They include aerobic/endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance.3

Aerobic exercises are great for overall heart health. These types of exercises strengthen your heart and lungs, improves your body’s utilization of oxygen and improves how well your heart pumps.4Types of aerobic exercise includes running, swimming and biking. These exercises also help lower your blood pressure, resting heart rate and LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Strength training builds muscles’ strength, can improve balance and help control weight. Examples include weight lifting, resistance band training and body-weight exercises.

Flexibility exercises include stretching and yoga. These types of exercises help improve overall flexibility and prevent muscle tears and joint pain.

Balance exercises also include yoga and lower-body exercises. This helps maintain strong balance as we age!

The American Heart Association recommends engaging in at least 150 minutes each week of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity.Aiming for about 20 to 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week will set you up for success! Starting with daily walks is a great way to get your heart rate up and to burn some extra calories.

In the long-run, you will experience the most benefits from increasing your heart rate with aerobic exercise. However, the simplest forms of activity such as cleaning, yard work and increasing your steps can be easy ways of getting your body moving each day. Try parking your car farther away from the store, or do body-weight exercises during television commercials. The little things will add up, the activity will get easier the more you do it. The best part? Your heart will thank you!