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Cardio Fitness
 by: Helena Ray
  • If you're thinking about putting together an exercise program, I offer you some information that may make your fitness road a little easier. What's the best cardio program to participate in? How do I get the most out of my workout? How long should I exercise? Well, read on and your questions will be answered.

    Most of the time the hardest part of getting started on a fitness regimen is GETTING STARTED. Lets cancel out all the excuses and get down to business. To make physical improvements, you need to push your body a little harder than usual. As your endurance increases your body becomes more conditioned. You need to increase the frequency, time, and intensity in order to increase your fitness level.

    Frequency: How often you exercise. For beginners, consider starting with 2-3 sessions per week. Intensity: How hard you exercise. For example, the pace you walk or run, the amount of weight you lift, or your heart rate count. Time: How long you perform an activity. "Time" can also refer to the number of sets or repetitions you perform in weight training.

    Begin Slowly Increase Endurance and Gradually Build

    If you jump in too quickly it will lead to soreness, fatigue and/or injuries. Work at your own fitness level, start out slow, and gradually increase duration and level of difficulty as your body progresses. Becoming fit is not an overnight proposition, it's a lifestyle commitment. Don't expect immediate dramatic changes in your body shape or weight loss. Although changes do happen internally, most external benefits won't become visible for the first four to six weeks. Stay focused and soon you will see the results you are shooting for. Remember even fitness instructors were once beginners. Not being familiar with movements and equipment can be frustrating enough, that you may consider throwing in the towel. Remember, it's normal to feel awkward in the beginning, especially if you have taken on an activity that you aren't familiar with. It doesn't take long for your skill to improve if you just hang in there.

  • Exercise Component 1: Aerobic Exercise

    Aerobic exercise increases the health and function of your heart, lungs, and circulatory system.
    For maximum effectiveness, aerobic exercise needs to be rhythmic, continuous, and involve the large muscle groups (primarily located in the lower part of your body.) Walking, jogging, cycling, aerobic dance, and stair climbing are all examples of activities that use large muscle groups. Activities combining upper and lower body movements such as cross-country skiing, rowing, and swimming can lead to even higher levels of aerobic capacity.

  • When using the same large muscle groups, rhythmically, for a period of 15 to 20 minutes or longer while maintaining 60-80% of your maximum heart rate will burn more body fat. Aerobic activity, which can be long in duration yet low in intensity:

    Aerobic activities include: walking, biking, jogging, swimming, aerobic classes and cross-country skiing. Anaerobic activity is short in duration and high in intensity.
    Anaerobic activities include: racquetball, downhill skiing, weight lifting, sprinting, softball, soccer and football.

    Aerobic means with air or oxygen. You should be able to carry on a short conversation while doing aerobic exercise. If you are gasping for air while talking, you are probably working anaerobic ally. When you work anaerobic ally, you will get tire faster and are more likely to experience sore muscles after exercise is over.

    Aerobic exercise conditions the heart and lungs by increasing the oxygen available to the body, and by enabling the heart to use oxygen more efficiently. Exercise alone cannot prevent or cure heart disease. This is done thru your diet. It is only one factor in a total program of risk reduction; examples of other factors are high blood pressure, cigarette smoking and high cholesterol level. In addition to cardiovascular benefits, other benefits of aerobic exercise include:
    • Control of body fat. (Aerobic exercise in conjunction with strength training and a proper diet will reduce body fat.)
    • Increased resistance to fatigue and extra energy.
    • Toned muscles and increased lean body mass.
    • Decreased tension and aid in sleeping.
    • Increased general stamina.
    • Psychological benefits - exercise improves mood, reduces depression and anxiety.
    Cardiovascular fitness is an ongoing process and requires diligent reinforcement. To maintain your current level of fitness you should do aerobic exercise at least 3 times a week. To increase your endurance, try exercising 4 to 5 times per week.

    The best exercise in a fitness routine is one that you enjoy enough to really pursue.

    Experiment with different forms of activity so you can find out what works for you. Alternating new activities with old favorites will keep you on your fitness path longer. Cross training helps avoid injury. Here are some suggestions:

    Indoor (Facility) Activities: If the treadmill, Stairmaster, rowing machine or stationery cycle doesn't excite you, sample some group activities that strike your fancy. Participate in a group cycling class, beat stress with yoga, find balance with martial arts, stay cool with indoor swimming, or kick some you-know-what with boxing class.

    At Home Activities: You don't need to join a gym to experience a variety of activities. Walking and hiking are extremely popular pastimes. Some equipment may be required when working out at home, depending on the activity you select. If you enjoy working out at home, then you may want to consider investing in a larger piece of equipment such as a treadmill, elliptical trainer, stationery bicycle, or ski machine. You can also run or walk with your dog. It's a great workout and it also can be somewhat of a stress reliever.

    Moderate-intensity exercise like walking can help ward off heart disease, osteoporosis and some types of cancer. It can also help shed some unwanted pounds.


    Fluid and electrolyte restoration is very important in any training program. Fluid and electrolyte replenishment is crucial in maintaining cardiac output and regulating body temperature during exercise.
    Elevations in body temperature can sharply impair performance. Studies have shown that fluid replacement must occur both during and after exercise. Electrolytes are now in sport drinks. These drinks can accelerate dehydration by speeding intestinal reassertion of fluids and improving fluid retention.

    What can keep you Motivated?

    Only one-quarter of those who begin an exercise program are still exercising by the end of their first year.
    The good news is that with some strategizing and planning, you can beat the dropout odds. Remember you are only improving your health by working out. Do you feel you're worth taking twenty minutes to an hour 3-4 times a week to replenish your body?

  • Here are some tips to help you stay motivated.
    Find a Fitness Partner: Studies show that most exercise routines have a greater rate of success if a family or a friend is included in the commitment to exercise. Find a walking partner, play tennis with your spouse, or go rollerblading with the kids.

    Start an Exercise Log or Journal: An exercise log or journal is an excellent way to keep track of your progress and provide you with motivation. You will see your success right before your very eyes as you read through your accomplishments. Exercise logs can take on many forms; a calendar to record your workouts, a daily journal to record your feelings and goals, a computerized exercise log, or a log purchased at bookstore. The key is to select a log or journal that fits your needs and provides you the kind of information that is meaningful to you.

  • Schedule Your Workouts: Exercise must be a priority in order to establish it as a lifestyle for yourself. Make time for your workouts and schedule them on your daily planner.


    Do your cardio first thing in the morning, before you've eaten. Science has shown that fat loss from cardio can be optimized if it's done shortly upon arising and before you've eaten anything. When you awake your stomach is completely empty so when you do cardio it quickly turns up the heat, which translates into faster fat loss.

    REMEMBER: Restore electrolytes and water during and after training.

    Cardio Kickboxing very good for reaching your fitness goals.
    Some of the hottest new workouts combine kickboxing moves with more traditional aerobics for a cardiovascular one two punch. The potential for injury can be high if you don't follow the instructor's safety tips, which will minimize your chance of injury.

    Everywhere you look these days, people are talking about Tae-Bo. Turn on your television on at any hour of the day or night and you're likely to see Billy Blanks spreading the word about his motivating, heart-pounding, butt-kicking creation.

    Tae-Bo is a high-energy combination of karate, aerobics, boxing, and dance, complete with pulsating music and a repeating eight-count. People can't seem to get enough of this workout! We know you have heard about the Tae-Bo mania, which may lead you to believe that this is a new invention, Billy Blanks has actually been teaching Tae-Bo at his Los Angeles studio for over 12 years. The seven-time world karate champion and seventh degree black belt began developing the program and yes, you get to workout with this magnificent individual.

    Blanks has presented the Tae-Bo fitness system to millions of people around the world. Known for his ability to motivate and inspire people to change their bodies, "from the inside out," Blanks classes are cardiovascular, toning and sculpting but also they're like a self defense course, which in turn changes the intensity and effectiveness of each and every workout. He bridges the gap between the spiritual connection of martial arts and traditional aerobics. Blanks sometimes will travel to different locations, if he shows up in your area; don't miss this extremely challenging workout.

    When you begin achieving great results, the excitement and fun you'll experience will make the change well worth the effort. Action creates motivation! Motivation creates goals being achieved, which in turn creates what we all want in life, HAPPINESS. Good Luck!


  • Do you prefer results to huffing? Pumping to puffing? No, I am not trying to pitch you on aerobic exercise. You already know it will take off weight, improve your energy, confidence, and offer protection down the road against life-threatening diseases.

    When being active in an aerobic activity it will increase your metabolism. You know aerobic exercise burns calories, but did you know it targets fat as an energy source even more than it does carbohydrates?

    "When you take up aerobic training, fundamental adaptations occur in the muscles that are activated," says Roger Fielding, Ph.D., director of Boston University's human physiology lab. "One of those adaptations is the way muscles utilizes fuel. It takes between one or two months, then your muscles switch from burning primarily carbohydrates to burning a significantly higher proportion of fat. That's why aerobic exercise is such a good past time for weight control, because it's extremely effective in lowering your body-fat percentage."

    In order to burn the greatest amount of total fat, it is more effective to increase the intensity or duration of exercise. Even though a smaller amount of the calories burned will come from fat when exercising at a higher intensity, its ability to burn more calories overall means that a larger total amount of fat is burned. Therefore, if you hit a plateau in your exercise program, and want to bump up your pace, you don't have to choose between weight control and heart health. Low-intensity exercise can still play an essential role in your workout. If you don't want to work out at a higher intensity, just work out at your own level. By making these changes from a sedentary lifestyle to a regular program of low-intensity exercise like walking, you can make the most important step for weight control and overall health.

    Toss Your Scale: How often has stepping on the scale in the morning ruined your day?" If your answer is "often," consider whether or not you should give that little machine such power over you. The fact, exercise should not revolve around a number on a scale. Exercise should be about making a commitment to your health and well being, weight loss is a natural side effect of that commitment.

    Dress the Part: Wear comfortable clothes appropriate for exercising, they will help you feel like working out. If you exercise at a gym put your exercise wear in a bag and place it beside the door so you can grab it on your way out in the morning.

    Dogs can be extremely motivating workout partners for walkers and joggers. Have you ever seen an unenthusiastic dog? Well, maybe one. Their very enthusiastic and they're annoyingly persistent about nudging idle television watchers off the sofa and out the door.

    Postures on machines: Try not to lean on the Stairmaster because you're cheating yourself out of an effective 30-45 min. Focus on setting the intensity level at the point where you can stand up straight while lightly resting your hands on the rails for balance. Once you develop balance you can remove hands off the rail and begin moving your arm for more of an effective workout.

    You ask how do I monitor exercise intensity and heart zone training? There are several ways to monitor the exercise intensity. The best way to test the intensity is to take your heart rate during the exercise, within the first 5 minutes of your cardiovascular exercise session and again just before the cool-down.

    There are two ways in which you can check your heart rate during exercise. The most accurate way to check your heart rate is to purchase a heart-rate monitor that you strap around your chest. It will give you feedback on a digital watch that tells you exactly what your heart rate is at a specific time in the exercise session. The other way to get your heart rate is by palpating (feeling) the carotid artery or radial artery. The carotid artery may be felt by gently placing your index finger on your neck, between the middle of your collarbone and jaw line. Placing your index and middle finger on the underside and thumb-side of your wrist does palpating the radial artery.

    When you're taking your heart rate you measure it in beats per minute (counting the number of beats for 60 seconds). For convenience, many people take their pulse for 6 seconds and simply add a 0 behind the number just obtained. So, if in 6 seconds you counted 14 beats, that would mean your heart rate was 140 beats per minute ( bpm ).

  • Do you feel your not exercising intensely enough?
    If you're looking for results you need to put effort into your fitness program. You don't want to overdo it, but you do want to get your heart elevated to its target-training zone.

    For maximum effectiveness and safety, cardio exercise has specific instructions on how many times per week, duration, and intensity. These are the three important components of cardiovascular exercise that you really need to understand and work into your program. In addition, your cardio routine should include a warm-up, a cool-down, and stretching of the muscles used in the exercise.

    One very common mistake is stretching before muscles are warmed-up. It is important to stretch after your muscles are warm (after blood has circulated through them). Never stretch a cold muscle. First, you must warm up. A warm-up should be done for at least 5-10 minutes at a low intensity. Usually, the warm-up is done by doing the same activity as the cardiovascular workout but at an intensity of 50-60% of maximum heart rate (max HR). After you've warmed-up for 5-10 minutes at a low intensity, your muscles should be warm. Then you can start your stretching following your intense cardio session.

    The cool down is similar to the warm-up in that it should last 5-10 minutes and be done at a low intensity (50-60% of max HR). After you have completed your cardiovascular exercise, and cooled-down properly, it is important that you stretch the primary muscles being used. Warming-up, stretching, and cooling-down are very important to every exercise session. They not only help your performance levels and produce better results; they also drastically decrease your risk of injury.

    The first component of cardio exercise is frequency of the exercise, which refers to the number of exercise sessions per week. To improve both cardiovascular fitness, and to decrease body fat, or maintain body fat at optimum levels. You should exercise (cardiovascular) at least three days a week. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends three to five days a week for most cardiovascular programs. Those of you who are very out of shape and/or who are overweight and doing weight-bearing cardiovascular exercise such as an aerobics class or jogging, might want to have at least 36 to 48 hours of rest between workouts to prevent an injury and to promote adequate bone and joint stress recovery.

    It is very important that you gradually increase the duration before you increase the intensity.

    How do you know if you are training too intensely or not intensely enough for what you want to achieve?
    This is where Heart Zone Training comes in. To use Heart Zone Training you must first determine your maximum heart rate (max HR).

    You can determine your max HR one of two ways. One way is to use the age predicted max HR formula, whereby you subtract your age from 220. So, if you were 40 years old, your predicted max HR would be 180 bpm. The other method, which is much more accurate and more individualized, is actually having a medical or fitness professional administer a max HR test for you, which is usually done on a stationery bicycle or treadmill for several minutes and requires very hard work. Ask your local gym how to do this. The first zone is called the Healthy Heart Zone. This is 50-60% of your max HR. This is the easiest and most comfortable zone within which to train and is the one that is best for people who are just starting an exercise program or have low functional capacity. Those of you who are walkers most likely train at this zone.

    The next zone is the Fitness Zone. This is 60-70% of your max HR. Once again, 85% of your calories burned in this zone are fats, 5% are proteins and 10% are carbohydrates. Studies have shown that in this zone you can condition your fat mobilization (getting fat out of your cells) while conditioning your fat transportation (getting fat to muscles). However, in this zone, you are training your fat cells to increase the rate of fat release and training your muscles to burn fat. Therefore, the benefits of this zone are not only the same as the healthy heart zone training at 50-60% but you are now slightly increasing the total number of calories burned with the cardio respiratory benefits. You burn more total calories at this zone simply because it is more intense.

    The third zone, the Aerobic Zone. This requires that you train at 70-80% of your max HR. This is the preferred zone if you are training for an endurance event. In this zone, 50% of calories burned are from carbohydrates, 50% are from fat and less than 1% is from protein. And, because there is an increase in intensity, there is also an increase in the total number of calories burned.

    The next training zone is called the Threshold or Anaerobic zone. This zone is 80-90% of your max HR. Benefits include an improved VO2 maximum (the highest amount of oxygen one can consume during exercise) and also an improved cardio respiratory system. Your endurance will improve and you'll be able to fight fatigue better. Since the intensity is high, more calories will be burned than within the other three zones. Although more calories are burned in this zone, 85% of the calories burned are from carbohydrates, 15% from fat and less than 1% are from protein.

  • When you begin achieving great results, the excitement and fun you'll experience will make the change well worth the effort. Action creates motivation! Motivation creates goals being achieved, which in turn creates what we all want in life, HAPPINESS. Good Luck!

About the Author
Helena Ray is the creator of Convictions of the Heart (, a website dedicated to helping people become aware of the current environmental problems and the personal effects on your health. Convictions of the Heart supports all green merchants and offers a variety of environmentally friendly products, all natural products, and whole foods.

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