Kick It Up With Cardio Exercise
Before you jump on that Stairmaster or start pounding the pavement, make sure you have a cardio exercise plan that will give you the most bang for your muscle burn.
Whether it's pounding the pavement, logging miles on the bike,
or climbing those stairs that seem to go nowhere, it's all about cardio
exercise. But other than a sweaty t-shirt, what do you have to show for your
workout? A slimmer stomach? Killer quads? Are you exercising for the right
amount of time to reap the full health benefits of cardiovascular fitness, or
Exercise experts, including fitness maven Denise Austin, answer
cardio questions for WebMD, so you can make the most of your muscle burn.
Cardio Exercise: The Heart of the Matter
"Cardiovascular exercise is any type of exercise that
increases the work of the heart and lungs," says Tommy Boone, PhD, a
founding member of the American Society of Exercise Physiologists.
"Walking, jogging, and running are common forms of cardiovascular, or
From running and walking, to swimming, elliptical
cross-training, biking, Stairmaster, and rowing -- to name a few -- the
physical benefits of cardio exercise abound, explains says Len Kravitz, PhD,
senior exercise physiologist for IDEA Health and Fitness Association. They
- Reduced risk of heart
- Improved blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels
- Improved heart function
- Reduced risk of osteoporosis
- Improved muscle mass
"The American College of Sports Medicine and the CDC
recommend, for health, that adults should accumulate 30 minutes of
moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week," says
Kravitz, who is also a coordinator of exercise science at the University of New
Mexico. "And to improve cardiovascular endurance, they recommend 20 to 60
minutes on three to five days per week."
Now that you know the benefits of cardio exercise, where should
your heart-pumping fitness plan begin?
Getting Into the Zone
To help you make the most of your cardio exercise workout --
help your heart, increase muscle, and lose fat -- Denise Austin, fitness
expert, author of seven books, including Shrink Your Female Fat Zones,
and star of 50 fitness videos, gives WebMD some tips.
"To reap all the benefits of a cardio workout, you should
sustain your workout for 20 minutes or more -- I do 30 minutes myself -- on a
schedule of about three to four times per week," says Austin.
Not only that, but you need to get in the zone, which
calculates into burning calories and fat.
"The best way to find out if you are burning fat is to take
your pulse halfway into your cardio workout for six seconds, then add a zero to
that number," Austin tells WebMD.
This number is your heart rate per minute.
Next, calculate your zone.
"Take the number 220, then minus your age, then calculate
70% of that number for your target beats per minute," says Austin, and
that's your zone. "If your heart rate halfway through your workout is over
that 70% mark take it down a level, and if under, pick up the pace."
Not a math wiz? There are easier ways to figure it out.
"Another great way to find out your zone is to get a pulse
monitor, which takes the math out of it," says Austin. "Or very simply,
take the talk test: while you are doing aerobics, talk a sentence. If you are
too winded to finish the sentence, you are overdoing it, or if it's too easy to
say, kick it up a notch!"