Health & Wellness Articles

5 Mind-Body Exercises for a Healthier Heart

Holistic Ways to Boost Heart Health

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There are a myriad of factors that affect heart health. From regular exercise to smoking cessation to eating a nutritious diet, there are a number of things you can do to strengthen your heart. But did you know that the mind-body connection can also be a strong ally in reducing your risk of heart disease?

While many of us think of physical health when it comes to heart health, research shows that your mood, outlook, and stress levels strongly affect the body—and the heart. This means that heart disease prevention isn't just a matter of eating better or exercising; engaging in stress-reducing exercises and mind-body practices can significantly improve the health of your heart, too. As a bonus, these activities have other body and mind benefits, too, like boosting your mood, helping you focus, improving your fitness, and increasing your overall life satisfaction. Talk about a win-win!

Here are five mind-body activities you can incorporate into your healthy lifestyle to help your mind, body—and heart!

Yoga
Yoga is probably best known for its flexibility benefits, along with its ability to help you sleep better, feel better about yourself and promote mindfulness. But, yoga has also been shown to be a powerful contributor of heart health. In fact, according to November 2009 research published in the International Journal of Medical Engineering and Informatics, those who practice yoga have higher heart rate variability (a sign of a healthy heart) than those who do not regularly practice yoga. In addition, the study found that regular yogis had stronger parasympathetic control, which indicates better autonomic control over heart rate—a sign of a healthier heart.

Another recent study by Ohio State University researchers, published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, found that women who routinely practiced yoga had lower levels of the cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) in their blood. IL-6 is part of the body's inflammatory response and has been correlated with heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, arthritis and a host of other age-related chronic diseases, making it a key marker in heart-health research. The women doing yoga also showed smaller increases in IL-6 in their blood after stressful experiences than women who were the same age and weight but who were not practicing yoga. Scientists believe that this indicates that yoga may also help people respond more calmly to stress in their everyday lives, which is a boon to heart health.

Although researchers can't exactly pinpoint which part of yoga—the breathing, stretching, relaxation or meditation—is responsible for the positive results, it's encouraging to say the least!
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About The Author

Jennipher Walters Jennipher Walters
Jenn is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites FitBottomeGirls.com, FitBottomedMamas.com and FitBottomedEats.com. 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

  • HONEYJI
    Great article! Yoga is such a health and powerful way for folks to be fit and no matter what your physical situation you can begin. (Chair yoga, beginners yoga). Thanks for the info about TM - I've been practicing regularly for over 10 years and it has changed my life is so many ways. On top of that list is managing stress better and feeling great! - 12/8/2014 11:15:32 AM
  • Good article! Thanks - 6/13/2014 6:25:37 AM
  • I never knew that yoga can reduce the risk of heart disease. I really enjoy yoga and meditation. This article inspires me to continue making time in my schedule do to each one, and how beneficial it will be for my health. - 8/31/2013 8:54:44 PM
  • I really liked this article. I have been looking for something simple I can do at home or a work. Sometimes I forget to relax and I go home with pain in my neck or back. - 8/31/2013 2:08:51 PM
  • Great article. - 8/4/2013 5:26:23 PM
  • I am a singer and a vocal instructor. The vocal exercises I do every day for myself and working with my students requires deep breathing and the vowels we use, from my point of view, puts you in a similar place as the "om"...I always come away feeling very strong, satisfied and fulfilled. Even if you have never thought of yourself as a singer, the lessons can be a definite health benefit. I've had many through the years who study just for fun, discipline and satisfaction. - 6/7/2013 8:08:16 AM
  • KATIEBATEY
    Chris: karate isn't good for rehabilitation heart patients.

    All this though I already do, lots of isometric. Swimming, walking, biking, yoga, bellydance and yes even hula hoop!
    - 9/10/2012 5:06:31 PM
  • Yeah I agree - I also thought they would have mention karate as one of the tenets is Zen Breathing. I know that there was a Catholic meditation group in my diocese. I don't know what happened to it as I hadn't heard about it for a while. - 2/19/2012 9:14:39 PM
  • One possible additional group of options which I would like to have seen mentioned (and what research has shown concerning their effects on heart health) would be ones such as religious practices - such as prayer (which might be considered in a similar group as TM), and religious attendance/worshi
    p activities. Maybe a follow-up that addresses what studies have shown on the relation of those (of varying religious backgrounds) types of activities/follow
    ings/practices. - 4/5/2011 5:59:26 PM

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