Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Fitness & Exercise

Select An Article

This article is from the WebMD Feature Archive

Font Size

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.
By
WebMD Feature

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 often enough?

Exercise experts, including fitness maven Denise Austin, answer cardio questions for WebMD, so you can make the most of your muscle burn.

Recommended Related to Men

Fighting My Father’s Fate

Some inheritances are a curse. I don’t mean your grandmother’s cabinet of porcelain fawns, nor your uncle’s portfolio of watercolor still lifes, nor the 40 years of Model Railroader magazines stowed in the rafters of your dad’s garage. Worse than any of these is the hand-me-down that could be hiding in your genes. No one wants to wind up with the family’s hereditary disease. Whether it’s diabetes, Alzheimer’s, or heart disease, having a family history of a hereditary disease can cast a shadow over...

Read the Fighting My Father’s Fate article > >

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 aerobic, exercise."

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 include:

Reduced risk of heart disease

  • 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!"

Next Article:

Healthy Living Tools

Ditch Those Inches

Set goals, tally calorie intake, track workouts and more, all via WebMD’s free Food & Fitness Planner.

Get Started

Today on WebMD

Wet feet on shower floor tile
Slideshow
Flat Abs
Slideshow
 
Build a Better Butt Slideshow
Slideshow
woman using ice pack
Quiz
 

man exercising
Article
7 most effective exercises
Interactive
 
Man looking at watch before workout
Slideshow
Overweight man sitting on park bench
Video
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Chill Out and Charge Up Challenge – How to help your tribe de-stress and energize.
Spark Change Challenge - Ready for a healthy change? Get some major motivation.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply

pilates instructor
Slideshow
jogger running among flowering plants
Video
 
woman walking
Article
Taylor Lautner
Article