Four Ways to Improve Your Heart Health
Our friends at 2XU recently launched their #HeartNotHype campaign to celebrate our body's engine, the heart. The heart drives all aspects of performance, from aerobic capacity to recovery. It's our lifeline, but we rarely take time to sit back and appreciate its importance.
When it comes to the fitness industry, it's easy to get lost in the hype. There are so many products designed to optimise athletic performance, but are we missing something? Instead of looking for a quick fix, it's time to get back to basics.
Here are four ways you can improve heart health to boost your performance:
Nutrition and Supplementation
When it comes to your heart health, nutrition is so important, but the guidelines can be confusing. In the past, dietary fat has been demonised, both by science and the media, but recent research suggests this is no longer necessary.
Aim to eat a balanced diet, with plenty of fruit and vegetables, moderate amounts of protein, a little starch, and not too much sugar. Focus on natural, wholesome ingredients; avoid artificial sweeteners, preservatives and flavours.
Plenty of foods have been consistently linked to heart health, including:
- Olive oil,
- Green tea,
- Leafy greans (e.g. broccoli, spinach and kale),
According to the research, supplementation may also play an important role in heart health. The modern diet makes it difficult for many of us to obtain sufficient amounts of certain nutrients, such as omega-3 and vitamin D. This, alongside poor nutrition, may help to explain the rise in heart disease.
If you want your heart to get stronger, you need to train it! There are many ways to improve aerobic capacity, and there isn't a quick fix. If you want to get results, you need to put in some hard work first.
One of the most effective ways to build aerobic capacity is interval training. So, if you want to improve your heart health, throw in a couple of Tabata-style WODs each week. Alternatively, head outdoors and grind through some hill sprints. Aim to find a hill you can sprint to the top of in around 30 seconds, to keep the intensity high.
Just like your muscles, your heart gets stronger when you take time to recover properly. As your heart health improves, your resting heart rate will get lower. However, if you're overtraining, your resting heart rate will be elevated.
It's a good idea to monitor your resting heart rate regularly, first thing in the morning before you get out of bed. If you find it's elevated for a couple of days after a tough workout, you're probably not giving your body enough time to recover.
Compression clothing, such as that produced by 2XU, help speed up your heart's recovery process. They compress the smaller veins, allowing more blood to flow back to the heart. This helps to remove lactates and reduce inflammation and muscle soreness. If your resting heart rate is consistently elevated after an intense training session, some compression gear would be a worthwhile investment.
Stress is one of the leading causes of heart disease. You can have the best diet, fitness plan or recovery routine, but you'll still find it difficult to improve heart health and athletic performance if you're constantly stressed.
Everyone handles stress differently, so it's important you take some time to figure out what works best for you. Some people swear by mindfulness and meditation, whilst others prefer to relax in front of the TV or a film.
Once you've figured out how to deal with stress, learn how to recognise the symptoms and react quickly. The longer it lasts, the harder it is to recover from.