GREENVILLE, S.C. (WCBD)– February is American Heart Month.

As part of our “Ask the Expert” series, in partnership with Bon Secours St. Francis, we spoke to an exercise physiologist about workouts that can strengthen the heart muscle.

Aerobic exercise, also known as ‘cardio’ is the most beneficial for your cardiovascular system.

“The heart is a muscle. And in order for it to be stronger and healthier, we’re going to do exercises that use large muscle groups that are repetitive in nature, that can be done for an extended period of time. Exercise that’s going to increase heart rate to cause you to breathe a little bit faster.”

Belinda Brooks, Exercise Physiologist, Bon Secours St. Francis

When you hear ‘cardio’, you may picture treadmills and ellipticals, but, Belinda Brooks an exercise physiologist, says there are other exercises to boost your heart health.

“Things like walking, swimming, jogging, rowing… go around the neighborhood for a walk, join an exercise class, even gardening can be included in exercise for good heart health,” said Brooks.

She says really any repetitive exercises, that can be done for a stretched-out period of time, count as heart-healthy cardio.

The benefits of these activities go well beyond the heart’s four chambers.

“It’s also going to help improve blood pressure, help the good cholesterol increase, help with the parts of our body that are affected negatively with stress. It’s going to help with blood sugar,” said Brooks.

So, how much cardio exercise should you aim for each week?

“It’s 150 minutes in a week of exercise at a moderate pace, which means you’re breathing a little differently. It’s comfortable. You can maintain it for a stretch of time. You can break that up however you want,” said Brooks.

If you have a pre-existing heart condition or any other serious conditions or complications, Brooks says it’s best to talk to your doctor before increasing your cardio activity.

For additional heart health resources, click on the below links:

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