Whether you love it or hate it, cardiorespiratory exercise is crucial when it comes to reaching your goals of losing weight, reducing body fat or maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Research shows there are many benefits to cardio activity including its ability to decrease:
- Daily fatigue
- Anxiety and stress
- Coronary artery disease
- Non-insulin dependent diabetes and
At the same time, cardio helps boost your:
- Sense of well-being
- Immune system
- Blood lipid profile and
- Overall physical performance at work and at play
While there are several levels to cardio training, for the purpose of this post, I’m going to focus on some guidelines for beginners and anyone who may be getting back into a fitness routine after a hiatus. (As usual, I base these guidelines using the essential information I studied through the National Academy of Sports Medicine.) Your cardio activity should focus on maintaining a zone one heart rate which is approximately 65% to 75% of your maximum heart rate. Here’s what that means for you:
- To calculate your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from the number 220.
- Multiply your max heart rate by .65.
- Multiply your max heart rate by .75.
To use myself as an example:
- 220-37 = 183
- 183 X 0.65 = 119
- 183 X 0.75 = 137
- Laura’s Zone One Heart Rate = 119 – 137
If you’re working within the parameters of zone one for cardio, it’s likely you are also in stage one of your overall exercise program. (NASM refers to this as the stabilization level.) If you’ve never worked out before, you may want to try to reach your zone one heart rate for a maximum five to ten minutes and then spend another 20 minutes simply walking at a good pace, climbing the stairs in your home or getting really dirty in the yard by cleaning up the garden. Your goal should be to eventually maintain your zone one heart rate for at least 30 minutes. This can take some time. A “newbie” may need two months or longer to meet this demand, but remember: there’s no finish line here. You’ve made a commitment to exercise and start taking better care of yourself, so while you don’t want to just dial it in, make the journey work for you.
A final note about measuring heart rate. You’ve made the decision to make fitness a part of your life, so along with a good pair of sneakers and breathable workout wear, invest in a heart rate monitor. Countless studies show it is the device that provides the most accurate heart rate readings. So, whether you’re using a treadmill in the gym or running or walking along the open road, you’ll be able to see if you’re really “in the zone.”
I hope this brief session of cardio 101 will help get your heart pumping safely and effectively so you can have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!