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November 27, 2009 at 1:26 PMComments: 0 Faves: 0

7 Simple Ways to Optimize Your Cardio Workout

By Smarty More Blogs by This Author

Cardiovascular exercise, also known as aerobic or cardio respiratory exercise, has several health benefits to offer when practiced on a regular basis - particularly if you know what you're doing. Get the most from your cardio workout when you learn to optimize your "sweat time."

Here are just 7 ways to do it!

#1. Establish a Target Heart Rate

When performing cardiovascular or aerobic exercise, get the most from your workout by exercising in your target heart rate zone. To calculate your own target heart rate zone, the easiest and most common way is to:

  1. Take the number 220.
  2. Subtract your age.
  3. Multiply by 70 percent.

For example, if you are 40 years old, it would be 220-40=180, multiplied by .7, which comes out to 126.Then you would pause halfway through your cardio exercise routine to see if your heart is beating 126 times per minute.

#2. Check Your Heart Rate As You Go

If you are over your target heart rate zone, just slightly decrease the intensity of your workout. If you are not hitting the target mark, you'll know to pick up the pace.

If this method seems like too much work (and math) for you, purchasing a pulse monitor is another option, albeit a little pricier. These are available at fitness centers and online, in a variety of options and prices.

#3. Use the Talk Test

An even simpler way to see if you are getting your full benefit from working out is to try the "talk test." Try to say one full sentence aloud while working out. If you are too winded to finish, you may want to scale back your efforts a little, and if you have no problem saying the full sentence, that is a sign that you should increase your level of effort.

#4. Protect Your Joints

There are many options for cardiovascular exercise and some are easier on the body than others. In the winter time, cross country skiing is a great cardio choice. There is little strain on the knees or joints, and it gets you outdoors in the sunshine soaking up vitamin D.

Swimming laps around a pool or lake provide another great cardio workout that is easy on joints, knees and the upper and lower back.

If you don't like getting wet or want a change of scenery, rowing in a river can't be beat. It is a completely cardiovascular workout that equally works your upper body, lower body and core muscles. Rowing puts little strain on any part of the body, and is a great exercise to work the core for people who have damage to areas like the neck and can't do abdominal exercises. Look online for local rowing clubs, or try out a row machine in your gym. Don't be embarrassed to ask the fitness associates a question, they are there to help! A race is typically 2000 meters, so 4000 meters is a good target to shoot for in practice.

#5. Take Your Time

An optimal cardio exercise workout should be anywhere from 15 to 60 minutes in length and should get your heart working in your target heart rate zone. A health club or gym will have many different machines that you can use to pursue your cardio fitness goals. Machines track your efforts easily by monitoring your time and intensity of the workout, and some machines even monitor your heart rate.

#6. Connect with Nature

An alternative is to use the great outdoors, or a combination of both the gym and out your front door. Exercising outdoors can help with seasonal blues and keep you connected with nature.

#7. Switch it Up

No matter what cardio workout routine you choose, interval training is recommended. An example of interval training would be to ride a bike for 60 minutes one day, go run three miles the next day, swim one mile on the third day and rest on the fourth. You could repeat this schedule for the next three days, or switch it up by rowing on a river or in the gym for 4000 meters, or cross country skiing for an hour to finish off the week. Interval training will prevent your routine from becoming stagnant and keep your workouts fresh with your body getting the most from your efforts while working out different parts of your body.

Free workout programs are found in abundance online, or a trainer at the gym or outdoors can help to get you into a regular cardio routine. Once you start, you will find out why so many people get hooked, it will get you closer to peak performance every day!

Keep in Mind:

There are two basic types of cardiovascular exercise: weight bearing and non-weight bearing.

  • Weight Bearing Cardio: Weight bearing exercisemeans your feet and legs support your body weight; examples include running, stair climbing, and jumping jacks. Weight-bearing cardio workouts are excellent for bone strengthening.
  • Non-Weight Bearing Cardio: In non-weight bearing exercise, the body is supported during exercise, and includes bicycling, swimming and rowing. These exercises are easier on the back, joint and knees and pose a lower risk of injury than weight-bearing exercises.

Cardiovascular exercise is not the only strategy to pursue if weight loss is the main goal, but cardio exercise is essential for optimal heart and muscle health. Regular cardiovascular exercise will keep you in good health by: reducing risk of heart disease, improving blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, improving heart function, reducing risk of osteoporosis, and increasing muscle mass.

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