Heart Healthy Exercises for Your 30's and Beyond
Fitness is important at all ages and even more important in our late 20s, 30s, and further on as we get older. Your 30s is a good time to develop a healthy exercise regimen if you have not already done so. Most adults, unless directed otherwise by their healthcare provider, should get at least 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity or 75-150 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic exercise every week. This can be spread over a few days rather than just a day or two. Adults should also incorporate strengthening exercises into the physical activity regimen at least twice a week.
But why exercise? Most people live a sedentary life; incorporating regular exercise into our daily routine can improve our overall health as well as reduce the risk of so many chronic diseases. People who are trying to lose weight will benefit from more physical activity and adjusting their caloric intake. Being physically fit has been shown to have a lot of health benefits including:
- Better quality of sleep
- Improved cholesterol levels
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Decreased risk of diabetes
- Decreased risk of hypertension
- Improved bone and muscle health
- Help with weight control
- Improved mental health and mood
- Improved overall health and wellbeing
- Reduced risk of certain cancers like colon, uterine, lung, and breast cancer
- Improved sexual health
- Improved cognitive health
Before starting a new exercise regimen, be sure to speak with your doctor to make sure the activities are right for you. Also, find activities that are fun for you so you can enjoy them for prolonged amounts of time since exercises, especially aerobic exercises, can be repetitive. Start slow and work your way up to what your body can safely tolerate. Although there are many types of exercise that are beneficial for everyone, aerobic, strengthening, and flexibility exercises are recommended for people in their 30s.
Aerobic exercises are physical activities that use the same muscle groups repetitively for a prolonged period. You should aim for 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise 3-5 times a week.
Strengthening exercises are activities that target different muscle groups like the chest, shoulders, arms, legs, hips, and back. You should repeat each short burst of exercise for each muscle group about 8-14 times per session.
Flexibility exercises are activities that improve the ability of a joint to maintain the range of motion necessary for day-to-day tasks. You should add flexibility exercises to your routine at least 2-3 times per week.
- Walking and Power Walking – this is the simplest form of exercise requiring only that you have comfortable walking shoes. Power walking or speed walking is the act of walking at an increased speed while swinging the arms gently. This arm motion typically helps to increase speed as well as improve the health benefits of walking. You can walk anywhere that is safe – both outdoors and indoors. You can also walk on exercise machines such as a treadmill, elliptical, air gliders, or other machines designed for walking. Just walking 30 minutes per day can help reduce body fat, improve mood, increase cardiovascular fitness, ease joint pain, boost immune function, and tone your legs. Since walking typically clears our mind, it also has a positive effect on creative thinking and the ability to think outside the box. If you enjoy walking, consider tracking your steps using your favorite device or app. Always remember to stretch before and after walking to reduce the risk of injuries.
- Jogging – this is a form of running at a slower pace specifically to increase physical fitness without adding too much stress on the body. Due to the slower intensity of jogging compared to running, joggers are more able to maintain a steady speed for a longer amount of time. Since jogging exerts more energy than walking, joggers can burn more calories with the same amount of time compared to walking. Like walking and running, jogging is a very effective form or aerobic exercise. Jogging is great for building endurance as well as for training for more strenuous activities. Moderate exercise like jogging can strengthen the body’s immune system for both short-term and long-term Similar to other aerobic exercises like walking and running, jogging can protect the brain from age- and stress-related decline in function. Jogging can, however, be “high-impact” and can strain the body, especially the joints of the knees. Practicing good posture, talking with your doctor before starting a new strenuous exercise, and having professionally fitted, comfortable, and supportive jogging/running shoes is essential to reduce the risk of injuries.
- Running – this is a great exercise whether you are running outdoors or indoors on a treadmill or on a track, on the sidewalk or in the park, or anywhere else you prefer to run. Running has the health benefits of walking and jogging but also builds lower body muscles depending on the intensity and duration of the run. Long-distance running builds physical and mental endurance, improves sleep quality, improves mood, increases muscle mass, and promotes weight loss as well as other health benefits. Short bursts of running like sprints and other similar high intensity running workouts stimulate muscle growth especially in the hamstrings and quadriceps. People in their 30s will benefit from 3-4 running workouts per week, depending on comfort level and experience. Running, especially long-distance running, can be tasking on the feet and the body. Just as with running and jogging, it is important to have professionally fitted running shoes to reduce the risk of injury, especially for sprints and long-distance runs.
- Swimming – this provides an all-over body workout since almost every body part is used during swimming. If you are looking to get and stay in shape with swimming, aim for at least 20 minutes of swimming at least 3-5 times a week for maximum benefit. Swimming helps you maintain a healthy body weight and strengthens the heart and lungs. Swimming also tones the muscles and builds strength. It increases your heart rate without stressing your body and builds endurance. According to the CDC, swimming is the 4th most popular aerobic physical exercise. Just two and half hours of swimming weekly can reduce the risk of chronic illnesses. Swimming has also been shown to improve arthritis, improve mood, maintain bone health in women, and generally improve quality of life. Studies show that people who swim have about half the risk of death compared to people who are inactive. Different swimming strokes like breaststroke, freestyle, butterfly, sidestroke, and backstroke focus on different body parts. However, it does not matter which stroke you prefer, you will get a good workout.
- Biking or cycling – whether biking outdoors on a bike or cycling indoors on a stationary cycling machine, these low-impact, versatile exercises can be scaled to your lifestyle, goals, and fitness level. Indoor cycling, especially at-home cycling, has become very popular over the last few years with new machines and interactive classes. Indoor cycling typically tends to be easier as you have control over how hard your workout is based on your fitness goal. Most indoor cycling is done on a stationary bike that allows you to increase or decrease resistance as you need. You can even incorporate some weights during the workout. Biking outdoors, on the other hand, is totally dependent on the terrain, but you have the benefit of fresh air and changing natural sceneries. Regardless of which one you choose, biking and cycling is a great workout for overall general health because it involves large groups of muscles working together simultaneously to achieve your fitness goals. Although biking and cycling is mostly cardio or aerobic exercise that burns calories and thus helps you maintain a healthy weight, they are also good at strengthening the core and lowering body weight. Biking and cycling also improve cardiovascular fitness, strengthen the bones, increase muscle strength, and decrease body fat.
- Rowing – most people who row indoors use rowing machines in the gym or at home. You can also row outdoors on water when possible. You don’t have to be a competitive rower to derive some health benefits from rowing. Rowing machines, also known as ergs or ergometers, are user-friendly and home-friendly as they pack up easily and typically take up less space than a treadmill. A good session of rowing stimulates both the upper and lower body to improve endurance, tone muscles, strengthen heart and lungs, and improve your overall health. Since rowing is a total body workout, it works your legs as well as your arms, abs, and other parts of the body. Rowing is low impact, which makes it easy for anyone of any fitness level at any age to try. Rowing is a good alternative to treadmill and ellipticals. It is also a very efficient workout, so if you are short on time, as most of us are, adding a rowing session to your workout regimen can go a long way to achieving your fitness goal. Rowing can be calming and meditative due to the repetitive motions which allow your mind to connect to your body on an autopilot mindset. Rowing promotes the release of endorphins, which makes us feel good and reduces stress. Just be sure to learn the proper rowing posture and technique prior to starting a new rowing program to avoid injuries and be more efficient with your workout.
- Other types of aerobic exercise that offer great health benefits include dance, jumping rope, step aerobics, and using aerobic machines. Regardless of which exercise regimen you choose, every aerobic exercise should include at least a 5-10-minute warm-up period when you gradually increase the intensity and pace of the exercise and a 5-10-minute cool-down period where you decrease the pace and intensity of the regimen. If desired, you can add a few stretching exercises after the cool-down period.
Muscle Strengthening Exercises
Strength training, also known as resistance training, is designed to improve endurance, encourage growth, and increase strength and power of certain groups of muscles or muscle groups. Strengthening exercises typically make the muscles work harder than usual. Most strengthening exercises fall into five categories – core work, push, pull, hinge, and squat. These five techniques are the basis of most exercises designed to strengthen the body. You should try to incorporate 2-3 days of strengthening activities into your exercise routine. Examples of strengthening exercises include:
- Sit-ups – these are abdominal endurance exercises with a full range of motion that tone and tighten the abdominal muscles (core) as well as surrounding muscles. They improve muscle mass, keep the body balanced and stable, improve posture, increase flexibility, and reduce the risk of back pain and injuries by tightening the core.
- Pushups – there are different types of pushups, including wall pushups, seated pushups, kneeling pushups, incline pushups, and regular pushup. All of them are effective at increasing upper body strength and the core. Pushups typically tone the chest muscles as well as the upper arm muscles.
- Squats – squats are good for burning calories, boosting strength, and losing weight. To squat properly, stand with your feet slightly wider than a hip-width apart. Then lower your hips until parallel to the floor. Exhale and return to your starting position. You can add a jump before returning to starting position if you want more intensity. You can also use a dumbbell or medicine ball to do an overhead squat. Although you will typically feel the effects of the squat in your thighs and glutes, it does work different muscles in the upper and lower body simultaneously, especially when you add some variation to the squats.
- Weightlifting – weightlifting is a type of physical fitness that uses weight machines or free weights such as dumbbells and barbells to activate muscles. Like most other exercises, using the proper technique is very important to avoid sprains, strains, and other painful injuries that could occur from incorrectly lifting weights. Weightlifting builds and strengthens muscles.
Flexibility exercises keep the body limber, agile, and able to perform various ranges of motion. Sitting for long periods of time or living a more sedentary lifestyle can drastically reduce our body’s ability to accommodate various types of movements without pain or discomfort. Aging also causes the muscles to shorten, which can lead to loss of elasticity and incremental pain, especially in the shoulders, hips, and spine. Although most physical activities can help with flexibility, some exercises are more efficient and effective for maintaining flexibility. Incorporating these exercises into your normal workout routine a few times a week can significantly reduce the effects of aging on your body as well as promote general wellbeing. Examples of flexibility exercises include:
- Yoga – yoga not only reduces stress, but it also enhances flexibility, balance, mental clarity, and strength. Yoga can be low-impact or rigorous depending on your physical fitness level. It is a highly effective exercise for flexibility. Yoga focuses on holding poses and postures, thereby stretching specific parts of the body or the entire body depending on the pose. Yoga is meditative and requires concentration to achieve a body-mind connection.
- Tai Chi – this is a low-impact activity that effectively improves flexibility and range of motion without adding stress to the body. Tai chi involves executing a series of continuous slow but focused body movements while breathing slowly and deeply. Each dance-like posture in Tai chi flow into the next, and the body is constantly stretching and moving. Just like yoga, Tai chi can be meditative as it connects the body and mind through these gentle movements.
- Stretching with or without stretch bands – stretching is a simple way to increase mobility and flexibility, especially that of dormant muscles. You can stretch without any added equipment, but adding lightweight or resistance stretch bands to your routine stretch can activate and engage more muscles and make a significant difference to your fitness goal. Be sure to maintain good posture and balance and repeat the same stretch equally for both sides of the body when possible.
- Use foam rollers – using a foam roller on the muscles helps to reduce muscle soreness and tightness. It also reduces inflammation and quickly relieves the muscles of lactic acid that typically accumulates after a workout. Foam rollers are helpful with improving flexibility and performance to reduce the risk of exercise-induced injuries. To use a foam roller, place it beneath the targeted area and using your own body as resistance, gently rolling/massaging the muscle against the roller to immediately increase muscle flexibility.
What You Should Know
The 30s is an important decade to start increasing our activity level as well as building muscles that will improve our overall health and well-being. Most people in their 30s live more sedentary lives than they did in their 20s due to increased responsibilities of adulthood. We start losing muscle mass and strength from the 40s making it harder to maintain a healthy weight without increased activity levels as we age. Along with proper nutrition, developing and maintaining a good exercise regimen in our 30s is essential for a healthy lifestyle. Exercise not only increases energy, improves mood, and strengthens the body, it also reduces the risk of chronic diseases that come with aging and a sedentary lifestyle.