Fitness Articles

The Heart Smart Workout Plan

Your Exercise Plan for a Healthier Heart

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Perform vigorously cardio for 20 minutes a day, three days a week. According to ACSM, a vigorous intensity is at 70%-89% of your maximum heart rate, which is an aggressive pace where you can only get a few words out at a time.

Strength training guidelines: Do 8-10 strength-training exercises with 8-12 repetitions of each exercise twice a week.
Heart-Healthy Exercise Plans for All Fitness Levels

In order to make it easy to get your heart healthier, we've created sample workout plans for three different fitness levels. After 3-4 months at one level, jump up to the next level to continue challenging yourself and improving your fitness and cardiovascular fitness. Before you start, read these safety guidelines and get clearance to exercise from your doctor.

Heart-Healthy Workout Plan for Beginners
Cardio: Choose two cardio activities that you love to do, such as dancing, basketball, swimming, biking or walking. Alternate those activities five times a week for 30 minutes per session (moderate intensity). The most important thing is to pick something you like to do so that exercise is enjoyable.

Strength: Use SparkPeople's Workout Generator and choose beginner, full-body workout that takes about 30 minutes to complete. Follow the plan two days per week, with a least one day of rest between strength-training sessions.

Putting it All Together: How do you put 5 days of cardio and 2 days of strength training together into one easy plan? Here's an example of how your workout plan may look.
Monday: Brisk walk for 30 minutes (moderate cardio session #1)

Tuesday: 20-minute Beginner's Ball Workout (strength training session #1), and active video game play (i.e. Wii or the Kinect) for 30 minutes (moderate cardio session #2)

Wednesday: Bike with the kids for 30 minutes (moderate cardio session #3)

Thursday: Walk the dog for 30 minutes (moderate cardio session #4)

Friday: 20-minute Beginner's Ball Workout (strength training session #2)

Saturday: Play basketball for 30+ minutes (moderate to intense cardio session #5)

Sunday: Rest day
Heart-Smart Workout Plan for Intermediate Exercisers
If you've been working out regularly for at least 6 months (at least 30 minutes a session most days of the week), you can begin to include some higher-intensity workouts to better your heart health. As a bonus, the harder you work out, the less time you'll need to spend exercising to achieving the same heart-healthy benefits.

Cardio Plan: Instead of doing five moderate-intensity sessions a week, aim for three 30- to 45-minute of workouts at a moderate-intensity, and one 20-minute workout at a high-intensity.
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About The Author

Jennipher Walters Jennipher Walters
Jenn is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites, and A certified personal trainer, health coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and is the author of The Fit Bottomed Girls Anti-Diet book (Random House, 2014).

See all of Jenn's articles.

Member Comments

  • I am on medications to keep my heart rate very slow so heart rate guidelines don't work for me - perceived exertion works much better in my case. I have started my exercise program very slowly but the doctor is very pleased with my progress. I do enjoy trying some of the Spark Videos! - 5/19/2016 9:55:46 AM
  • This is what I was looking for...tks. - 3/24/2016 9:41:35 PM
    Hello. I just signed up. This is a great article and your website is really a wonderful resource when it comes to fitness and health. Hey, I'm sure your other readers will benefit from these, too. Check this out.
    /389373/96477 - 7/29/2015 11:12:40 AM
  • ACEBES1751

    any suggestion on what level exercise I can do , I have a triple A and it is at 4.6 CM - 5/16/2015 10:02:36 AM
  • What if you can't walk for 30 min. due to other physical limitations such as back problems? There is no mention of breaking up the 30 min. into 10 or 15 min. workouts. You make it sound as though you must do a heavy 20 min. or a 30 min. workout to be effective. That just discourages those of us who can't, and we wonder then why even bother. - 5/14/2015 10:36:34 AM
  • good article - 7/21/2014 7:28:25 AM
  • Timely article. I dislike strength training, and was looking for a way begin. Knowing I only need to do it 2X a week is very encouraging. - 5/18/2013 12:28:34 AM
  • I really enjoyed this article. I always wanted to know what it meant to be in my target heart zone when I have bronchical asthma, high blood pressure. Now I know how to gage it by my breathing. Thank you. - 7/21/2012 4:41:41 PM
  • This article is very informative. I really appreciate this information because I have learnt a lot. - 5/17/2012 8:46:46 PM
  • This is the best article I've read so far regarding heart healthy exercise! - 5/17/2012 9:19:38 AM
    I couldn't save the article either. Where's the "save" button on this article? I think it is a perfect article to save for future reference. - 5/17/2012 9:04:26 AM
    Great article, but for some reason I can't save it? Kind of annoying. - 4/27/2012 12:06:30 PM
  • This was a well-conceived and presented article. Thanks for providing specifics targeted to multiple levels of fitness. - 12/18/2011 6:22:02 PM
  • Great article Jennipher. People need to be guided towards the answers. You do a wonderful job.

    Thanks for sharing, and

    stay strong,
    Anne Pringle Burnell - 7/7/2011 7:47:06 AM
  • Thanks for this great article! Especially helpful is the "Putting it all together" section--I am ready to try the next level!! - 5/19/2011 9:17:37 AM

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