Cardio is the one type of workout you can do that has the maximum number of benefits for your body and overall health. While there are many activities that fall under the definition of cardio, you should first understand what it is and why it is so important.
Cardio (a.k.a. cardiovascular exercise) is any type of activity that raises your heart rate to a certain level and keeps it there for a recommended duration of time. This heart rate is called your target heart rate level and is easily calculated using and online target heart rate calculator or chart. The key during cardio is to keep your heart rate up but still be able to carry on with conversation.
Measure Your Heart Rate
Understanding your target heart rate will help you be as effective as possible in cardio workouts. Once you have this valued number you can monitor it and adjust your intensity during exercise to keep within the appropriate range.
The easiest way to monitor your heart rate is to check your pulse. With your fingers located under your jawbone, count your heartbeats, beginning with zero for the first beat, for ten seconds. Multiply this number by 6 and you have your current heart rate. Does it match your target number or do you need to slow down or speed up?
The Benefits Of Cardio
While many people choose to begin a cardio program for its ability to help them lose weight and look better in a bathing suit, there are more reasons cardio is good for you:
- It strengthens your heart and makes it more effective and less stressed when pumping blood.
- It increases lung capacity so your whole body gets more oxygen, which is good for generating new cells and blood.
- It provides a reduced risk for heart attack, heart disease, high blood pressure, and even diabetes.
- It helps you get better quality sleep and relieves stress.
Choosing The Best Cardio Program
Of course the best exercise for you is the kind you will stick with. So first choose something you enjoy. You don’t have to join a fitness club with fancy complicated machines in order to get an effective cardio workout, unless you want to, of course.
Options for cardio outside the gym include walking/jogging and aerobic type DVDs that you can do at home.
At the gym, you can use the treadmill, bicycle, stair stepper, or elliptical machine. You also have the option of signing up for classes like cycling, aerobics, tae-bo, and more; which might be a good decision for you is you need the accountability and motivation to stay on track.
If you have decided to begin your cardio workouts on your own, without an instructor then here is some additional information.
- Push yourself enough to get a good workout, but not so much that you injure yourself. It might take you two to three weeks to be able to complete a cardio session. That’s okay; congratulate yourself on the small steps.
- Recommended minimum workout length and frequency is 30 minutes for 3-5 days a week. So start slow and work your way up. If you can only maintain your target heart rate for 10 minutes, at least finish the 30 minute period with low intensity exercise. The next time you can set a goal to maintain your target heart rate for 12 to 15 minutes, and so on until you are able to maintain you target heart rate for 30 minutes or more.
- Invest in some good shoes with proper support and nonrestrictive clothing that you can move in. While it is not a fashion show, you should feel confident and comfortable when working out.
- Finally, don’t forget to stretch thoroughly before and after each session.