Get moving for heart health
Standard cardio workouts can be hard to get pumped up for, even in the best of times. When you’re stuck inside – and the couch is calling your name – lacing up your sneaks for an at-home sweat session can be particularly tough. And yet, making time for cardio is one of the absolute best things you can do for your long-term health. In addition to helping you burn kilojoules (essential, if weight maintenance or loss is a goal), regular cardio is critical for heart health.
According to the World Health Organisation heart disease remains the leading cause of death around the world, with ischaemic heart disease responsible for 16% of the world’s death in 2019 – an appalling number that doesn’t begin to account for all the heart attacks or heart disease-related health issues that don’t result in death.
The good news: Lifestyle-related choices – like performing regular cardiovascular exercise – can help lower blood pressure, increase insulin sensitivity, reduce atherosclerosis and plaque formation, reduce aortic valve calcification, and increase organ perfusion of blood. These benefits, among others, were cited in a review of studies published in 2018 in Frontiers of Cardiovascular Medicine, highlighting how regular cardio can help reduce disease risk and burden.
Every bit counts
And the thing is, you don’t have to turn into a CrossFit athlete or marathon runner to reap the benefits. As little as 15 minutes a day of moderate-intensity cardio has been shown to reduce the risk for all-cause mortality, with benefits increasing up to roughly 50 to 60 minutes a day of more vigorous exercise.
That means that even on your darkest, coldest, least motivated days in a lockdown-requiring pandemic, it’s still possible to muster the energy to eke out 15 minutes of cardio to maintain or improve your health. And who knows, after that first 15 minutes, you might have the energy to keep on going.
How to begin
If you haven’t exercised in years, or you have health issues (particularly heart issues), it’s important to check with your doctor before starting a new routine. Chances are your doctor will jump up and down and say, “Yes, please start!” without a second thought. Generally speaking, simple cardio exercises like walking or swimming are safe for all. But it’s always important to make sure your doctor is on-board with changes to your routine.
And if you don’t know where to begin, it’s much easier than you may think. Here’s your crash course on the best ways to squeeze in cardio at home.