Building Strong Hearts: A Guide to Fitness for Women

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Building Strong Hearts: A Guide to Fitness for Women

By Amanda Xaysuda, Director, Strong Hearts Rehabilitation Center

 

As the director of the Strong Hearts Rehabilitation Program at Arkansas Heart Hospital, I’ve made it my mission to empower women to take charge of their cardiovascular health through effective fitness strategies. And one of the best, albeit often overlooked, aspects of women’s fitness is the power of strength training.

One of the most common misconceptions about fitness is cardio is queen and strength training is just an afterthought. Sure, getting your heart rate up with a brisk run or a cycling session is fantastic for your cardiovascular system. But here’s the thing: strength training offers many benefits that cardio alone can’t provide, especially for us ladies.

Strength training, particularly weight-bearing exercises like squats, helps to strengthen bones and reduce the risk of fractures. Plus, building muscle mass through strength training can improve posture, enhance our overall appearance and reduce the likelihood of falls as we age.

Now, here are four powerhouse exercises that every woman should incorporate into her fitness routine:

    1. Squats: Ah, the humble squat. It’s like the MVP of strength movements, and for good reason. Squats target multiple muscle groups simultaneously, including the quads, hamstrings, glutes and core. Plus, you can do them anywhere, with or without weights. Want to kick it up a notch? Try the Bulgarian squat, which elevates one foot behind you on a bench or step. This variation adds an extra challenge and helps improve balance and stability.

    2. Wall Pilates: If you’re looking for a low-impact yet highly effective strength exercise, look no further than wall Pilates. By incorporating the support and resistance of a wall, movements like the wall bridge become even more potent. This exercise targets the core, glutes and hamstrings while also improving spinal alignment. Plus, because all you need is a wall, you can sneak in a quick wall pilates session anytime, anywhere.

    3. Compound Movements: Short on time? Compound movements are your new best friend. These exercises combine two or more movements into one, allowing you to maximize your workout in less time. One of my favorites is the renegade row, which combines a push-up with a dumbbell row.

    4. Lift Heavy: Ladies, it’s time to ditch the myth that lifting heavy weights will make you bulky. In reality, lifting heavier weights challenges your muscles and stimulates growth, increasing strength and definition. The deadlift is a perfect example of a heavy lifting movement that targets the entire posterior chain, including the glutes, hamstrings and lower back. Don’t be afraid to load up that barbell and lift with confidence!

Ladies, let’s make strength training a non-negotiable part of our fitness routine. Not only does it contribute to a stronger, healthier heart, but it also helps us feel empowered and confident in our bodies. So grab those dumbbells, hit the squat rack and let’s build strong hearts together!

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