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.
You walk into Home Depot or Lowe's to pick up a lightbulb. Instead, you
leave with some new flooring, a circular saw, a framing square, and big ideas
about re-tiling your kitchen.
The problem? You've never done anything more than change a lightbulb by
Growing numbers of Americans are tackling do-it-yourself home improvement
projects that once might have been left to professionals. One reason for the
shift: Stores like Home Depot, along with TV shows on networks like HGTV or the
"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
"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.