Boxing Is a Cardiologist’s Favorite Exercise for Heart Health

Although it can sometimes be easy to get stuck in a workout rut, one of the best things about exercise is the fact that there are so many different ways you can get your sweat on. From running to hiking, rowing to weightlifting, the expansive Rolodex of ways to move your body allows for enough variety in choices to prevent boredom and find at least one type of activity you enjoy.

It’s always interesting to hear what types of workout routines health professionals follow. We spoke to Lance LaMotte, MD, FACC, who’s not only a leading structural and interventional cardiologist, but—as we learned when we had the opportunity to talk with him about his favorite exercise for heart health—is also the owner of a boxing club in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

For a packed schedule, efficiency is key

Almost everyone feels like they are busy, but Dr. LaMotte may take the cake. While balancing his job as a cardiologist and the medical director of cardiac rehabilitation at Baton Rouge General Medical Center, he also owns, helps manage, and works out regularly at TITLE Boxing Club.

Efficiency is key when your schedule is jam-packed. “I personally enjoy high-intensity interval training (HIIT) style workouts,” he shares. “These exercises pack intense caloric burn into relatively short periods of time.” He points out that this is a great approach for those with very busy schedules—you can boost both strength and endurance in a short period of time.

To make sure he’s able to fit in his daily exercise for heart health, he always does it first thing in the morning. “I am an early-bird and my work days can be very long, so my habit is to exercise before my day starts,” he says.

Keeping workouts varied

Boxing is clearly LaMotte’s go-to activity, but he makes sure his actual workout structure and style is still varied throughout the week in order to work his body in different ways.

“I obviously like to get to our heavy-bag classes a couple of days a week, but also enjoy one-on-one mitt sessions, which are great at polishing skill and footwork,” he says. “I also enjoy the competitive nature of CrossFit, primarily to push my personal performance, but also to see how I compare to peers (and even those younger than me!).”

What boxing has to offer

What does a top cardiologist see in boxing as a form of exercise? According to Dr. LaMotte, there’s a common misconception that boxing is just about arm/upper body training, when in reality, it’s a total-body workout.

“It engages the core. The footwork required enhances agility and lower body strength. It is absolutely demanding on the arms and shoulders, and builds muscle and definition,” Dr. LaMotte says. That mix of challenges means you’re recruiting more muscles as you work out, and burning more calories.

Dr. LaMotte loves that boxing provides both a strengthening and cardio workout without having to run, cycle, or spend hours on a cardio machine. “Additionally, there is intense stress relief and euphoria when hitting the bag or mitts,” he adds.

If you’ve never worn boxing gloves or thrown a single punch, don’t be intimidated. According to Dr. LaMotte, “The best thing is that no experience is necessary. Even the novice gets a great workout starting day one. Those with experience continue to reap these benefits and further refine skills for even better workout quality.”

Ready to throw some punches? Try this quick boxing workout designed for beginners:

His advice for exercise for heart health

The types of workouts that will improve your health depend on your fitness level. “One has to consider the individual’s baseline health status,” he says. “As an example, a highly competitive athlete who regularly does swimming and biking who adds walking to his or her regimen wouldn’t see as much of an impact as someone who has been sedentary for years who starts a walking program.”

When it comes to the intensity level for cardio exercise, Dr. LaMotte recommends using target heart rate based on your estimated maximal heart rate. “We typically use a simple formula (220 minus age) to calculate maximum heart rate and encourage people to strive for 50 to 70 percent maximum heart rate for moderate-intensity exercise, and 80 to 90 percent maximum heart rate [for vigorous exercise],” he explains. “These are not absolute, and it is important to take inventory of how you feel at any heart rate.”

As for meeting minimum physical activity guidelines for health, the American Heart Association advocates 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week (which equates to 30 minutes of exercise five days per week), or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week, along with at At least two total-body strength training workouts.

Find a workout you enjoy

More than anything, Dr. LaMotte says the best type of exercise for heart health is simply the type you’ll do consistently. So what can you do if you haven’t found your “boxing”—the type of exercise you actually like? He suggests sampling a wide variety of activities and workout structures to see what clicks.

“Determine if you flourish in a group environment, prefer to workout with a friend, or alone,” he says. “Personal trainers are also an option. There is also a vast amount of digital platforms available for those who prefer to stay home or those who travel frequently. The workout regimen should align with fitness goals.”

After you’ve found a type of exercise you enjoy, make sure your approach is aligned with your current health and fitness status and overall wellness goals. “Those with chronic medical conditions should have the clearance of their healthcare provider, particularly with more intense exercises,” advises Dr. LaMotte.

Lastly, he says to remember that fitness is a journey. “It often requires lifestyle adjustment, commitment, and patience. Setting reasonable goals is key,” he shares. “A heart-healthy diet is also an important component: I remind my patients that they can’t ‘out-exercise’ a bad diet!”

Still, regular exercise of any type can have a tremendous impact on both physical and emotional well-being, he says. “Heart healthy exercises can lower one’s risk for heart attack, stroke, diabetes, dementia, better sleep, better bone health, and a better sense of overall well-being. There is a lower risk of depression, anxiety, and some types of cancer. Exercise can also improve cognition and memory.”

That sure sounds like a bunch of fantastic reasons to try your hand at boxing, take a Zumba class, or simply go for a walk around your neighborhood.

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