Use it and lose it!
Cardiovascular exercise is the number 1 way to improve your general health, burn body fat and increase your fitness levels.
As we now have so many machines to do many of our manual tasks in everyday life, we now more than ever need to dedicate specific time to our health and fitness pursuits due to the fact that we are being spared many of the physical challenges that used to come our way each and everyday. To make things worse, we have also become lazy and comfortable with our easier way of life.
How often have you driven round and round the shopping centre car park looking for the closest park to the doors rather than parking at the first available parking spot and walking the rest of the way? This is one example of the little things that can be done in addition to your dedicated exercise sessions that will add to your overall calorie expenditure on a daily basis.
In the most basic terms, the more you move, the more calories your body will burn, however, you should be approaching your dedicated exercise sessions with a slightly more scientific approach.
Assessing your cardiovascular goals is the first step and understanding a little about intensity levels will ensure that the time invested in your exercise sessions returns the greatest benefits, rather than a hit and miss approach.
Cardio for good health - This form of exercise is for those wishing to improve quality of life and general well being and is the one for you if you are not out to break any land speed records. Gentle ‘good health’ cardio training will increase your fitness level to a degree, helping you get through day-to-day tasks more easily and with more energy.
Your sessions will need to be done at an intensity of between 50-60% of your estimated maximum heart rate for about 30 minutes and can be done on most days of the week.
Cardio for weight loss – To see a significant reduction in body fat, your sessions must be a little more intense (between 60 and 70% of your estimated maximum heart rate) than that required for a good health approach. These sessions can also be performed on most days of the week for up to 30 minutes and should ideally be supplemented with some form of strength training.
Cardio for fitness – Improving your fitness to a level that enables you to take on some serious challenges or competitive sport is a serious job. These sessions should be performed at 70-80% of your estimated maximum heart rate and can also involve bouts of interval training that would have your heart rate peaking for short times near your maximum heart rate level. These are intense sessions and will require at least a 48 hour rest between sessions.
Calculating your estimated maximum heart rate
The standard method for calculating your target heart rate is based on estimating your maximum heart rate using the formula 220 minus your age in years.
For example 220 – 35 = 185 beats per minute
To calculate your target heart rate percentage, simply multiply your estimated maximum heart rate (185bpm) by the applicable percentage.
185 x 60% = 111bpm
The important issue to remember with all estimated calculations is that in reality they can vary by plus or minus 15 beats per minute and at best are only an indication of actual results.
ESTIMATED MAXIMUM HEART RATE = 220 – AGE (in years)
Note: If you’re just starting out on a new exercise programme, it is recommended that you stay at a 15 minute maximum for at least a week. When you feel you’re ready to go longer, increase your time by approximately 10% per week. Don’t push yourself too hard. You should never feel exhausted during or following exercise.