Maintaining a healthy heart through low intensity exercise

February 04 2015

As part of National Heart Month, we are trying to encourage people to show love for their cardiovascular systems by getting active and delving into some fantastic cardio workouts.

Any activity that boosts your heart rate above the normal level for 10 minutes or longer is classed as a cardiovascular activity, which works to strengthen your heart and reduce your blood pressure, regardless of the intensity.

Our last article focused on high intensity interval training (HIIT) but that level of workout certainly isn’t for everyone. Here we will discuss the benefits of low intensity cardio activity.

Low intensity cardio

While cardio exercises can have benefits for people of all ages, it is crucial that people look after their cardiovascular fitness as they get older. As we age, we lose vital muscle strength and bone density, which can trigger the risk of diseases and conditions, such as osteoporosis. Elderly adults are also naturally more vulnerable to developing heart conditions.

The Centre for Disease Control recommends that healthy adults over the age of 65 should complete 150 minutes of low to moderate intensity cardio activity once a week. Performing at a low to moderate intensity means that you should be able to hold a conversation throughout the exercise but would struggle to sing. No excuses for belting out Donny Osmond’s Puppy Love then!

Benefits of low intensity exercise

Although low intensity exercises do not possess the same fat burning properties as HIIT workouts, they still provide fantastic cardiovascular benefits and can really improve your overall health.

Performing lower intensity cardio exercise means that you can train for a longer period of time than if you were completing it at a higher intensity. This is perfect if you are wanting to improve your stamina and endurance.

By taking deep breaths throughout your workout, you are improving your respiratory system for a greater length of time. While you workout, you will significantly increase the levels of oxygen taken into your blood, which is vital for your muscles to produce energy and grow stronger. Without adequate amounts of oxygen your muscles will produce lactic acid which can cause painful stitches.

As the impact of the activity is reduced, there is less risk of injury or muscle inflammation during this type of exercise. This makes it the ideal exercise for those who are less active and may be concerned about hurting themselves.

Your own low intensity workout

Perform 10 reps of each exercise to a slow pace. Reduce the reps to 5 if you find that you are becoming breathless too quickly.

Slow burpees
Squat with an overhead arm raise

Rest

High knee extension on alternate knees
Slow mountain climbers

Rest

Slow ice skater right leg (extending leg up and around in a circle)
Slow ice skater left leg

Rest

Side plank resting on knee on right side
Side plank resting on knee on left side

Rest

Slow side to side squats
Slow boxer jab to the side

Rest

Knee tuck crunch
Tricep extension and chest press with a light dumbbell

Other great low intensity exercises include classes such as water aerobics, swimming strokes such as backstroke and breaststroke and also fast paced walking on an incline. Jogging at a comfortable speed, or using the elliptical trainer on a low level for around 20-30 minutes are also forms of low intensity cardio exercise that you can perform.

How often should you perform low intensity exercise?

Due to the reduced impact on your muscles, you can perform low intensity exercise however many days you feel is necessary. The important thing is to listen to your body and think about your own level of personal fitness. If you feel exhausted from yesterday’s workout then reduce the level of effort and have a day’s rest until you feel like you can comfortably exercise again.

Low intensity exercise isn’t strictly for older people or anyone suffering from injuries. Adding a low intensity workout, such as a 30 minute run performed at 40-50% of a person’s maximum heart rate, in between your high intensity sessions, can boost your performance and strengthen muscles. You should always try to let your body rest for at least one day a week to aid muscle recovery.

We understand that the gym can sometimes seem a little intimidating, especially for someone who is older or lacking in personal fitness. There really is no reason to feel this way, the gym is a really friendly place and we have plenty of staff on hand if you want any help. A great way to overcome the fear is to get started on your own personal plan designed by an expert personal trainer. They can talk you through the best options to achieve your goals and make sure you feel comfortable with the exercises you are performing. Book a free consultation with one today.

Alternatively, make sure you book an induction before you attempt to tackle your first gym session alone, it will only take a moment of your day and can really save you from any nasty injuries or embarrassments. We’ve written a post about the benefits of your gym induction that you can read here.