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How Mind and Body Exercise Can Benefit Your Heart Health

In today’s hectic world, where deadlines loom, schedules overflow and demands never seem to end, taking care of your heart health is often pushed to the back burner. 

Amidst the stress of daily life, finding moments of calm and balance are important. Mind-body exercises, such as yoga and tai chi, offer a holistic approach to wellness, benefiting mental health and impacting your heart health. 

“The mind-body connection refers to the relationship between our mental and physical states,” said I-Hui Ann Chiang, MD, an interventional cardiologist with Banner – University Medicine. “It acknowledges that our thoughts, emotions and beliefs influence our physical health, and vice versa.”

When we experience stress, anxiety or negative emotions, our bodies respond with physiological changes that can impact cardiovascular health. Taking time to cultivate mindfulness and connection with your body is a valuable investment in your long-term health and happiness.

Learn how integrating these exercises into daily life can improve your heart health and well-being.

Understanding mind-body exercises

Mind-body exercises are any type of movement that combines mental focus and controlled breathing to improve strength, flexibility and balance. “These exercises, which include yoga, tai chi or qigong and meditation, foster harmony between the mind and body,” Dr. Chiang said.

Yoga: Yoga combines physical postures, breathing exercises and meditation. It enhances flexibility, strength and balance while fostering relaxation and stress reduction.

Tai chi and qigong: These ancient Chinese practices involve slow, flowing movements, deep breathing and meditation – often described as meditation in motion. Tai chi and qigong improve balance, flexibility and mental clarity.

Meditation: Meditation involves training the mind to achieve a heightened state of awareness and inner peace. Practices may include focused attention (such as mindfulness meditation) or open monitoring (such as loving-kindness meditation). 

Benefits for heart health

Your heart and mind are closely connected. Mind-body exercise can boost your heart health. Here’s how:

  1. It relieves stress: Chronic stress is a risk factor for heart disease, contributing to high blood pressure, inflammation and arterial damage. “Mind-body exercises have been shown to improve stress levels, increase relaxation and improve overall well-being,” Dr. Chiang said.
  2. It helps control blood pressure: High blood pressure (or hypertension) is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. “Limited data shows improvements in lower blood pressure and, therefore, cardiovascular health with mind-body exercises,” Dr. Chiang said. “Relaxation and stress reduction lead to decreased inflammatory responses and lead to reductions in blood pressure and stress hormones.”
  3. You’ll sleep better: Quality sleep is important for your heart. Mind-body exercises can help you relax and unwind before bedtime.
  4. It improves heart rate variability (HRV): HRV measures the variation in the time between consecutive heartbeats. Higher HRV is related to better heart health and increased resilience to stress. Mind-body practices such as meditation have been found to enhance HRV, improving nervous system function and cardiac health. 

Aside from helping your heart, these exercises offer other awesome benefits, including:

  • Enhancing muscle strength, flexibility and posture
  • Connecting you with yourself and others
  • Reducing chronic pain
  • Boosting brain and mental health

Finding balance in your daily life

Incorporating mind-body exercises into your daily routine can be a powerful strategy for promoting heart health and overall well-being. Here are some tips for getting started:

  • Set clear intentions: Determine why you want to incorporate mind-body exercises into your routine. Whether it’s to reduce stress, improve flexibility or promote relaxation, having a clear intention will help you stay motivated.
  • Choose activities you enjoy: Popular options are yoga, tai chi or meditation, but Pilates, deep breathing exercises and other mindfulness practices are options. “I would suggest trying a variety of mind-body exercises and see what speaks most to you,” Dr. Chiang said. “Do the relaxation exercises that feel best for you so that you want to continue regularly.”
  • Start small: Begin with short sessions and gradually increase the duration until you become more comfortable. Aim for just a few minutes a day to establish consistency. As you become more comfortable, increase the duration and intensity of your sessions.
  • Create a schedule: Set aside time in your schedule for exercise. Whether in the morning to energize yourself for the day ahead or in the evening to unwind and relax, find a time that works best for you and pencil it into your calendar.
  • Set up dedicated space: Create a quiet and comfortable space in your home where you can practice your chosen mind-body exercise without distractions. Keep this area clutter-free and create a calming atmosphere with calming music, candles or essential oils.
  • Track your progress: Keep a journal or use a tracking app to monitor your progress and reflect on how exercises are helping your physical and mental well-being. Celebrate your achievements and adjust along the way.
  • Listen to your body: Pay attention to how your body responds to different exercises. If something feels uncomfortable or causes pain, modify the activity or ask for help from a qualified instructor. If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness or any other concerning symptoms, stop exercising and seek immediate medical attention.
  • Seek support: Consider joining a class, workshop or online community to connect with like-minded individuals and receive guidance from experienced instructors. Surrounding yourself with a supportive network can enhance your motivation and accountability.

While mind-body exercises offer numerous benefits for heart health, it’s important to approach these practices cautiously if you have a pre-existing heart condition. Before beginning any exercise program, talk to your health care provider or a cardiologist. They can provide personalized guidance and recommendations based on your specific health status and medical history.


Mind-body exercises offer many benefits for heart health, from reducing stress to lowering heart rate and blood pressure. Integrating these practices into your life can nurture your physical and mental well-being, paving the way for a healthier heart and a more balanced life.

Whether it’s tai chi, yoga or meditation, embrace the harmony of mind and body and let it be the foundation of your journey to a healthier heart. 

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