Cardiovascular exercise is important for various reasons. It strengthens the heart, raises the body’s metabolism, improves circulation, burns excessive fat, increases energy and gives you an overall feeling of well being. With so many benefits, it is worthwhile to incorporate some form of cardio into your exercise program.
However, the pressing question may be “how much cardio exercise is right for me?” The answer to that question depends largely on your fitness goals. First, you should look at why you want to begin cardio training exercises and then you can determine the best cardio workouts for you program. Are you looking for exercises to lose weight? Or, do you desire more cardiovascular training to improve general health, compete in a race, or supplement your strength training program?
Strive for Moderate Intensity
Regardless of what fitness level you’re at, the best rule of thumb is to strive for moderate intensity cardio workout exercise. Moderate intensity entails performing an aerobic exercise such as be jogging, cycling, swimming, etc which gets the heart pumping for a prolonged period of time. Beginners can easily begin cardio exercises at home by taking brisk walks, jumping rope, climbing up and down stairs, or purchasing a treadmill or aerobic exercise videos.
Concerning cardiovascular training, the American College of Sports Medicine suggests initiating some form of moderate aerobic exercise which lasts at least 30 minutes and is performed from three to five times a week. However, if you are too winded to carry on a normal conversation during the activity then you are exercising too hard. This is a good gauge for measuring a safe workout that is considered moderate regardless of how fit you are.
Determine Your MHR
For those who are more fitness advanced and need to incorporate cardiovascular exercise into your training program in order to compete, you should determine and monitor your MHR (maximum heart rate). By performing cardio workout exercise according to MHR guidelines, you can significantly increase your heart’s capacity in the shortest amount of time.
The most accurate method to obtain your MHR is to see a medical professional who will have you do a treadmill stress test. This is especially recommended for those who are overweight and more than 40 years old.
If you simply want a ballpark figure of your MHR, you can use a simple formula for doing so. Subtract your age from 220 to get your number of heart beats per minute. A more reliable way to determine your MHR is by using the Karvonen formula. However, you will need to know your resting heart rate (RHR) since it is calculated from that.
Cardio for Marathon and Weight Training
Those training to run a marathon or some other running/sprinting sport, of course, will want to increase the strength of their heart. Therefore, cardiovascular training will need to be practiced at least five days per week and for weeks or months prior to competition.
Bodybuilders who are concerned about losing muscle mass through cardio training exercises can still receive the benefits of a strong heart without sacrificing mass by practicing a couple of techniques. Decrease your 30 minute aerobic exercises to two or three times per week, or decrease the weight on your full-body exercises and do more repetitions which will cause the heart to work harder.
Supplement Cardio Workouts
Be sure to supplement cardiovascular exercise with proper rest and nutrition. Also, in order to get the best health results, you should participate in a fitness program that is balanced between cardio and resistance training. It is also recommended to see your doctor to get a clean bill of health before beginning cardio workout exercise if you are just starting.