Heart disease is America's number one killer, accounting for about one in four deaths in the U.S. It's no wonder, then, that we spend billions in research to combat it. The problem: Such spending results in an ever-shifting flurry of studies that can be more confusing than illuminating. Take saturated fat. We've been told for decades that it's bad – yet the cover of Time recently directed us to "Eat Butter." We've received similarly mixed messages about the benefits of cardio training, supplements, and even the right blood pressure numbers to have. How to navigate these murky scientific waters? We did a deep dive and came up with simple steps to safeguard your heart. Think of it as cardiac wisdom for the ages – regardless of what the next blaring headline has to say.
Cheat Sheet No. 2: A Perfect Week of Exercise
There’s a research-backed way to strengthen your heart, and while you’re at it, your muscles, bones and mind. It doesn’t require hours of exercise, newfangled equipment, or a trainer — just a smart combination of cardio intervals, weights, and yep, a little yoga. How it breaks down:
Cardio: You want at least two sessions of steady-pace aerobic cardio at 65 to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate for 30 to 45 minutes. Also include two 20-minute bouts of high-intensity interval training. (Here's a solid go-to: Choose any form of cardio you want, and warm up for five minutes. Alternate going all-out for one minute, and recovering for one minute, for 10 minutes. Cool down for five minutes.)
Strength: Log two 30-minute workouts by any method you choose: body-weight resistance (push-ups, pull-ups, etc.) or dumbbells – or try a one-two punch by mixing strength and cardio in a routine with kettlebells, pool workouts with weights, or fast-paced circuit training.
Flexibility: Stretch every day for 10 minutes. An alternative: vinyasa-style yoga, which combines flexibility and strength work with a stress-reducing mindfulness component that can help protect the heart vessels against roller-coaster stress hormones. Need more convincing? In one Yale study, people who took a six-week yoga-and-meditation program saw the function of their blood vessels improve by 17 percent.
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