Cardio is Key to A Healthy Routine
Cardio workouts are any exercise that raises and maintain your heart rate over a predetermined time period. Activities like biking, jogging, or roller-blading are all good cardio exercises.
The first question my clients ask is, "How can cardio help me?"
Your heart and lungs pump blood to the arteries to deliver nutrients (oxygen) to the working muscles. More oxygen gives your muscles a greater capacity to work. If you're in good cardiovascular health, you can do more with less effort.
There are several other benefits of regular cardio exercise, including:
Lowering your risk of having a heart attack, reducing your blood pressure and reducing your body's "bad" cholesterol while increasing the "good" cholesterol.
The second question is always, "How frequently should I do cardio?"
To see benefits, you should do cardio workouts at least three days per week. If you're doing "steady state" cardio, you may need to do it up to five times a week. If you're doing intervals, three rounds with 15 minutes of work time each is plenty.
The third question I get is, "How long should I work out?"
The duration of your cardio workout will vary depending on what your doctor approves and your overall physical health. If you are a beginner, consider walking first. As your body becomes more conditioned, you can increase the time you walk and slowly begin more strenuous activities. There are two goals.
For Steady State Cardio: You want it to last at least 20 minutes, but not more than 60. (You may work out more than an hour if you are training for a marathon or other endurance event. But that is the exception rather than the rule.)
For Interval Training Cardio: You want at least four intervals, eventually working up to 10 or 15 one-minute intervals.
Don't rely solely on cardio to lose weight or get in shape! Remember getting fit is 1/3 diet, 1/3 weight or resistance training and 1/3 cardio.
Now you're probably wondering, "How intense should I work out?" The following information is for Steady State Cardio.
When doing cardio, you should be exercising enough that you can talk and sweat. If you're too short of breath to talk, you're probably exercising too hard. Likewise, if you're not sweating, can sing or whistle, you're probably not working hard enough.
One of the more exacting ways to determine how hard you should work out is something called the Training Heart Rate formula.
Take the number (220 for men and 226 for women) and subtract your current age. This is your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR).
(220 or 226) - Current Age = Maximum Heart Rate (MHR)
MHR x 55% or 65% = Minimum beats per minute.
MHR x 90% = Maximum beats per minute.
If you're 35 years old, then according to the formula, while doing cardio, your heart should be pumping a minimum of 101 beats per minute and a maximum of 166 beats per minute.
A word of caution. Beginners may need to workout at a lower level than the minimum suggested by the formula until their bodies have built up a tolerance for the workout.
Finally, use the right equipment. If you're going to spend the time doing cardio exercise, use a good heart rate monitor. While you can keep taking your pulse to make sure you're exercising "in your range," a heart rate monitor is easier and tends to help you achieve more consistent results.
After doing cardio faithfully for three months, one of my clients no longer gets winded walking to and from work. As a bonus, his pants size has dropped from a 38 to 34. He's healthier, happier and looks great.
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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.