One of the Best Exercises for Heart Health in Perimenopause is swimming

The Best Exercises for Heart Health in Perimenopause

Let’s be honest, we all know exercise is important. No matter your age or health status. But this is never more true than when we age. And this is even more true for women in menopause, who are at a greater risk of cardiovascular disease than they were before reaching menopause. But not all exercise is created equally.  So we’ve done a little research to find out the best exercises for heart health in perimenopause.

A group of people performing aerobic exercises in a park, such as jogging, cycling, and jumping rope, with a bright sun shining in the background

Turns out finding the best exercises for heart health isn’t just about the type of activity, but also about the consistency and intensity with which you perform them. Aerobic exercises, such as brisk walking, cycling, or swimming, have been shown to effectively increase your heart rate and improve blood flow, which are key factors in cardiovascular fitness. And resistance training is especially important for perimenopausal and menopausal women. Not just for a more resilient circulatory system. It’s also important for our insulin levels and bone health.

Choosing exercises that you enjoy ensures that you stick to a heart-healthy lifestyle. Whether it’s a dance class, hiking in nature, or practicing yoga, finding activities that resonate with your interests makes it more likely that you’ll engage in them regularly. Committing to a routine of varied and enjoyable exercises is a crucial step towards boosting your heart health and overall quality of life.

Fundamentals of Heart-Healthy Exercise

Top Aerobic Exercises

Cardio has gotten a bit of a bad rap for women in perimenopause. We’ve been told to too much or too intense cardio can increase our cortisol levels and cause inflammation and weight gain. This is true, but cardio or aerobic exercise are still important for maintaining a healthy heart. They improve the heart’s efficiency at pumping blood and can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Here are some top aerobic exercises that are especially beneficial for heart health.

The difference is that in perimenopause and menopause, you don’t want to do high intensity/high impact cardio anymore.
Instead why not try:

Brisk Walking

Brisk walking is a fantastic aerobic exercise that significantly improves cardiovascular fitness. It’s easily accessible and requires no special equipment. Try incorporating a daily walk for at least 30 minutes at a pace that gets your heart rate up to experience notable improvements in heart health.

Swimming

Swimming is an excellent full-body workout that’s gentle on the joints, making it ideal for individuals with cardiovascular concerns. Swimming laps at a steady pace for 20-30 minutes can help enhance cardiovascular capacity and overall heart health.

Cycling

Cycling is a low-impact aerobic exercise that’s perfect for boosting heart health. Whether outdoors on a bicycle or indoors on a stationary bike, regular cycling sessions, such as 40 minutes three times a week, have been shown to improve cardiovascular fitness across all age groups.

For optimal heart health, aim to engage in cardiovascular exercises for at least 150 minutes per week at moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. This translates to a minimum of 30 minutes a day, five times a week, to maintain a consistent routine.

Focus on moderate-intensity workouts, ensuring you can talk but not sing during the activity. If you’re short on time, consider increasing the intensity but for a shorter time – 15-20 minutes. And make sure you  alternate between extreme exertion and rest.

Strength Training for Heart Health

A weightlifting barbell being lifted off the ground, with plates on each end, surrounded by a set of dumbbells and a resistance band

Incorporating strength training into your routine improves your cardiovascular and overall health. And it’s especially true during perimenopause and menopause when lifting heavy weights becomes increasingly important. Strength training ramps up your metabolic rate and helps to build bone density.

Weight Lifting

A lot of women are afraid of weight lifting because they don’t want to bulk up. This is a fitness myth that just won’t seem to die. But it’s not true. And it needs to be stressed again that women need to lift heavy things especially in perimenopause and menopause.

Weight lifting, or resistance training, is not only important for our metabolism and bone density, it’s also been shown to have numerous heart health benefits. ocus on using free weights or weight machines for structured routines. To ensure your safety and maximize benefits, keep the weights moderate and the repetitions high.  Aim for 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions with comfortable weights.

Bodyweight Exercises

Bodyweight exercises provide a convenient way to strengthen your heart without equipment. Movements like push-ups, squats, and lunges can be just as effective for heart health. Adjust the intensity based on your fitness level, increasing muscle strength and contributing to a healthier heart. Research suggests that resistance exercise can benefit individuals with and without cardiovascular disease. Listen to your body and make adjustments as needed to avoid overexertion.

Push-Ups: Begin with sets of 10-15 and increase as your strength improves. You can even do them on your knees.

Squats/Lunges: Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions, maintaining form to prevent injuries.

Flexibility and Stretching

A person stretching in a serene park, surrounded by lush greenery and a clear blue sky, demonstrating flexibility exercises for heart health

Incorporating flexibility and stretching exercises like yoga and Pilates into your routine has a positive impact on your heart health. These exercises not only enhance your overall cardiovascular fitness but also improve vascular function and reduce stress levels.

Yoga

Yoga is an incredible practice for enhancing flexibility and reducing stress, which is beneficial for heart health. Specific postures, or asanas, can increase cardiovascular efficiency. The Downward-Facing Dog, for example, promotes better blood circulation and can be calming, which potentially lowers high blood pressure. Whereas, the Tree Pose helps with  balance, calm and concentration. And the Warrior Pose increases stamina, balance, and focus.

Pilates

Pilates is great for strengthening the core and improving posture. This indirectly supporting heart health by promoting more efficient movement and reducing the risk of injury. The control and precision required in Pilates also challenges the cardiovascular system.  Especially when sequences are performed in a flow. This helps keep the heart rate up.

Monitoring Your Heart Rate

A heart rate monitor displays steady readings during aerobic exercises in a gym setting

To optimize cardiovascular benefits, it’s essential to maintain an appropriate heart rate during exercise. Let’s explore how you can effectively monitor your heart rate and understand different heart rate zones.

Using Heart Rate Monitors

You’ll find that using heart rate monitors is the most accurate way to track the intensity of your workouts. There are various options available, from chest straps to wrist-based devices. The key is to choose a monitor that consistently provides accurate readings. Wrist-worn devices like fitness trackers are convenient and often come with additional features like step counting and sleep tracking. Alternatively, chest straps, known for their accuracy, directly measure the heart’s electrical activity and can provide continuous heart rate readings, particularly beneficial during high-intensity exercises.

Understanding Heart Rate Zones

Understanding heart rate zones allows you to customize your workouts according to specific fitness objectives. These zones are based on percentages of your maximum heart rate (MHR). Here’s a breakdown:

  • Zone 1: 50-60% MHR – Light intensity, perfect for warming up and cooling down.
  • Zone 2: 60-70% MHR – Moderate intensity, great for weight management and enhancing endurance.
  • Zone 3: 70-80% MHR – Vigorous intensity, beneficial for improving cardiovascular fitness.
  • Zone 4: 80-90% MHR – High intensity, enhances speed and muscle strength.
  • Zone 5: 90-100% MHR – Maximum effort, improves speed and power, but not sustainable for extended periods.

Estimating Your Maximum Heart Rate

To estimate your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. For instance, if you’re 30 years old, your estimated maximum heart rate would be 190 beats per minute (bpm). By monitoring your heart rate and staying within these zones, you can effectively target and enhance your cardiovascular health

Remember

Taking care of your heart is a lifelong commitment, and exercise is a cornerstone of that commitment. As women in perimenopause and menopause, the importance of prioritizing heart health becomes even more evident. Through a combination of aerobic exercises, strength training, and flexibility exercises like yoga and Pilates, we can strengthen not only our bodies, but also our hearts.

And if you don’t exercise right now, don’t worry. It’s never too late to start.  And every step towards a healthier lifestyle is a step in the right direction for longevity and for your heart health.