“Weight training is critical for people with heart disease,” says Dr. Paul Oh, medical director of the Cardiac Rehabilitation and Secondary Prevention Program at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute. In addition to building muscle mass, which will help you burn fat, weight training is also good for bone health and your heart. When it comes to deciding what type of weight training to do, using your own body weight can be extremely effective. “The challenge is incorporating proper progression,” says Fox, who recommends adjusting the tempo of your movements to increase the difficulty. For example, once you can do 20 push-ups with ease, challenge yourself by slowing down and counting to four as your raise yourself up and then again as you lower.
A steady run is obviously an excellent way to stay in shape, but running intervals will really push your cardiovascular fitness to the next level. Whether it’s sprints or hills, all you need is 10 seconds at a time. “I recommend keeping the intensity at 10 seconds to ensure you go all out,” says Fox, who suggests starting with four 10-second intervals per workout, eventually working your way up to 10. He also recommends doing the intervals first, so not only do you have the energy to do them, but this type of training will deplete some of the glycogen or carbohydrate stored in the muscle, allowing you to tap into stored fat more readily. Bonus!
Tip: Work hard enough to get out of breath and then take whatever minimal rest period you need to recover, says Fox.
You don’t have to be doing a high level of activity to increase your heart health, admits Dr. Oh, who says that pushing your heart rate up and down quickly can be hazardous to those who are out of shape (heart attacks that occur while shovelling snow is an example of this). At first glance, yoga may not seem like an obvious heart health activity, but it is. “Yoga is great for strength and muscle toning,” says Dr. Oh. Plus more active styles of yoga such as Ashtanga and Bikram can offer cardiovascular benefits, as your heart rate is elevated throughout the class.