Good circulation is absolutely critical for the healthy functioning of your body.
Think about it: your blood is what delivers oxygen and nutrients (the building blocks of every cell) everywhere it needs to go. Without sufficient blood flow, your tissues and organs will be deprived of nutrients and/or oxygen, which can impair function and throw off the delicate balance of all your internal systems.
It should come as no surprise, then, that any exercise that improves circulation is absolutely excellent for your overall health and longevity.
Here are some of the best exercises you can incorporate into your weekly workouts to get blood flowing more effectively throughout your body:
Walking is easily one of the best exercises to improve blood flow in your body for one simple reason: anyone can do it at pretty much any time. All you’ve got to do is walk out the door and keep on walking for an hour, two, three, or more.
Not only is walking great exercise, but it’s a form of exercise you can often sustain for much longer than higher-intensity exercise. It’s not uncommon to walk for 2-3 hours in a single day when touring a new city, attending a convention, or enjoying a sightseeing trip.
The more you walk, the more energy you’ll burn, and the more you’ll clear your blood vessels of accumulated fats that could impair blood flow.
Running takes everything good that walking does for your body and kicks it up to the next level.
Running may only move your legs, but it improves circulation throughout your entire body. Your heart pumps more effectively, your lungs absorb more oxygen, and your blood vessels dilate to allow for sufficient blood to flow through. The result is both enhanced cardiovascular function and a faster metabolism.
Yes, running can be challenging at first, but it’s well worth the time and effort you invest. Few forms of exercise are as good for your circulatory system as running.
Cycling is another great exercise to improve blood flow in your body.
When you’re cycling, your legs are pumping up and down, your muscles contracting and relaxing over and over again. This forces your body to send oxygenated blood to your leg muscles, along with burning through fats in order to provide fuel for your exercise.
Even though you’re sitting down, cycling works your heart and lungs and forces your blood vessels to expand to allow for more blood flow. All of this combines to make for very effectively improved blood flow throughout your entire body.
Rowing works basically your entire body: your leg muscles drive backward and pull forward, your abs and lower back work to bend your upper body with each stroke, and your arm, upper back, and shoulder muscles pull on the oars (or the rowing machine handle). Put that all together, and you’ll burn a lot of energy.
But more than just energy-burning, your cardiovascular system has to work overtime to keep all of those hard-working muscles oxygenated and fueled with energy. The full-body workout you get through rowing does amazing things to improve blood flow through your body.
And, as a bonus, it’ll increase mobility in your hips, knees, and lower back and improve your coordination and balance.
Swimming is perhaps the “best” form of cardio because it not only engages your muscles, but it also forces you to regulate your breathing. Because you’re underwater, you have to time every inhalation and exhalation just right in order to maintain a steady breathing rhythm and absorb sufficient oxygen.
By regulating your breathing, you strengthen your lungs, increase your heart’s ability to pump efficiently, and encourage better muscular function. Put that all together and you’ve got both improved fitness and better blood flow.
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Bodyweight training—exercises like push-ups, squats, crunches, lunges, and pull-ups—are also great for improving blood flow.
When you perform these exercises, your muscles are placed under A LOT of strain all at once. A high volume of oxygen-rich blood is needed to flush lactic acid from the muscles and replenish depleted nutrients and energy.
Put together with the forms of cardio listed above, and you’ve got yourself a game-changing workout routine guaranteed to improve blood flow.
Weightlifting does the same thing as bodyweight training, but takes it to the next level by adding A WHOLE LOT of weight. The heavy load will strain your muscles and force your body to send blood flowing to those muscles to replenish nutrients and energy and flush away lactic acid. Every set you perform will force your heart, lungs, and blood vessels to work extra-hard to restore your body to its “normal” function. This is the recovery phase between sets. The less time you spend recovering, the harder it pushes your cardiovascular system, and the more you will improve blood flow.
Sprint training (and all forms of high-intensity interval training) is absolutely amazing for your cardiovascular system.
During the periods of very high (near-maximum) intensity, you are pushing your muscles, lungs, and heart to the limits of their capacity. During the low-intensity periods, your heart slows down, your lungs absorb more oxygen, and your blood vessels dilate to increase blood flow. Repeatedly alternating between low and high intensity keeps your cardiovascular system (and muscles) working hard—hard enough that you can actually increase both aerobic capacity and heart rate.
Both Yoga and Pilates provide similar benefits for your cardiovascular system. While neither are very high-intensity, they require a consistent output of energy. Your cardiovascular system spends the entire session working to deliver the energy your metabolism produces.
The fact that you’re pairing the movements with regulated breathing techniques also does wonders to improve your blood flow. The constant rhythmic inhalations and exhalations will ensure the blood your heart pumps is oxygenated to maximum capacity, so your muscles and internal systems get all the oxygen needed to sustain the exertion for long periods of time.
Martial arts have a lot in common with sprint training. Typically, there are long periods of low-intensity effort (such as jogging, practicing forms, etc.), coupled with periods of high-intensity effort (fast-paced sparring and high-intensity kicks and punches).
Not only are martial arts amazing for burning fat, but they will also boost your circulation and help to improve both your cardiovascular and aerobic functions. And, as a bonus, they’re great for learning coordination, balance, and self-control.
Last, but definitely not least, we’ve got to recommend dancing as one of the best forms of exercise to improve blood flow.
Regardless of what type of dancing you do—from salsa dancing to ballroom dancing to hip hop dancing to break dancing—your muscles have to work hard through the sequence of movements you perform, and thus your heart, lungs, and blood vessels work to keep those muscles fueled up and oxygenated.
The fact that you sustain your exertion (dancing) for long periods means you burn through a lot of calories and maintain elevated cardiovascular activity to improve fitness and circulation. Best of all, it’s a whole lot of fun, a workout you’ll actually look forward to every time!
If your focus is only on improving blood flow, cardio (a.k.a. cardiovascular endurance) training should be your primary form of exercise. The low-intensity, steady state exercise will help to keep your heart and lungs working for longer, encourage more efficient dilation of your blood vessels, and clear away fats and cholesterol that could impair circulation. However, for true fitness, it’s highly recommended to combine cardio with muscle-building exercise—which also happens to be a great way to improve blood flow.
However, you work out or whatever exercises you choose, the effort you put will go a long way toward helping you get healthier and fitter!
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