As we get older, “cardio” becomes less about “fat and calorie” burn and more about overall health and fitness. If I had to explain this shift, I would say that the benefits of cardio become more real and more practical when we get older. Worry about cardiac function and preventing cardiovascular disease in our youth? Nah! But talk about managing cholesterol and blood pressure in your 50’s, 60’s and beyond? Yep, all ears!
Here’s a quick review of the benefits of cardio exercise:
- Improves how your heart functions and helps prevent cardiovascular disease
- Reduces blood pressure and helps control cholesterol, specifically increasing the HDL in our bodies – the “good” cholesterol
- Helps prevent and treat Type II Diabetes
- Can alleviate depression and anxiety
- Increases bone density
- Enhances mental function – focus, concentration, resiliency
- Improves our stamina and energy
- Helps us sleep better!
Getting your “cardio” in as we get older can be a bit intimidating!
The fitness articles are filled with images of young, buff people doing crazy cardio exercises. The description of fitness classes intimidates with names like Insanity, Tabata, WERQ and Turbo Kick. I love to workout and exercise but no thank you! I see those pictures and read the class descriptions, and I immediately think of my “poor” knees and know that my shoulders would not want to take on that load. Can I have something more sane – please!
Cardio exercise is about rhythmic, sustained activity that uses many muscles and raises your breathing and heart rate!
It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that. Cardio exercise is simply movement that uses our big muscles (like our legs) or taps many muscles at once (like swimming). It increases our heart rate and makes us breath heavier. Walking, jogging, and running are great examples of cardio movement and exercise. Swimming, riding your bike, and playing tennis are other examples. Cardio exercise can also be accomplished in group fitness centers and with a personal trainer. A personal trainer can design workouts to combine strength exercises with movements targeted to your heart rate. With so many choices, where do you begin?
Create a daily habit of 30 minutes of moderate cardio movement
Organizations like the American Heart Association recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate activity five times a week. To accomplish this goal, I am a big fan of designing a baseline of cardio-based movement into everyday life. Making a more active lifestyle is important as we get older, and developing a daily habit like a lunch time walk keeps us healthy. I have talked to a number of friends who were very athletic in their 20’s and 30’s. Now as they approach their 50’s and 60’s, they are beginning to design more active lives. A few ride their bikes to work. Others with a train commute to work have started walking to the train station. One of my clients incorporates walking meetings at the office.
This baseline activity should be moderate. If you are targeting a heart rate, keeping it at 50%, no more than 60% of your maximum heart rate is perfect.
Then two to four times a week, exercise vigorously for 20 minutes
To me, this means an organized exercise session where you are sweating and breathing hard. Here your heart rate should be in the 60%-75% of your maximum rate. If you are accustomed to exercise and used to pushing yourself, you may want to target 75%-90% once or twice a week. The goal at this vigorous level is to push yourself hard for 20 minutes. Interval work is an excellent choice for vigorous exercise – alternating between pushing yourself hard and then going easy. The most obvious forms of vigorous cardio exercise are jogging, running, or working on a piece of cardio equipment at the gym. A rigorous game of tennis, a brisk walk or quick dancing are also great choices. (Remember, this vigorous exercise counts towards the recommendation of 30 minutes of movement, five times a week.)
When exercising at a vigorous level, be sure to be kind to your joints – especially your knees, hips, shoulders and spine. While fitness magazines and health clubs advertise very intense and high impact “cardio” sessions, there is no need to punish your joints to achieve your cardio goals. This is when I think working with a personal trainer is an excellent option. A trainer will be able to customize a cardio program for you with the right level of intensity and exercise selection. A personal trainer can also help you be efficient with your time by combining strength training and cardio exercises in the same workout.
With Strand Fitness, you’ll get a personalized program of cardio and strength! And you don’t have to figure it out on your own!
Contact Pam today (630-653-8152; firstname.lastname@example.org) to schedule your consultation so we can put a plan together for you!
We’ll help you exercise at the right intensity to reach your goals!
To learn how our experts can help you be (and stay) strong, fit, and healthy, please visit our website: Total Body Fitness Solutions
Strand Fitness is a personal training studio in Downtown Wheaton, serving Glen Ellyn, Carol Stream, Winfield, & Chicago Western Suburbs. To learn more about how Strand Fitness can help you reach your fitness goals, contact Pam (630-653-8152) and schedule your free fitness consultation.
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