Crossroads Fitness Blog

Put your heart into fitness with cardio

April 18, 2017

 It’s no secret: To stay healthy, we must get our bodies moving every day. Movement strengthens our muscles, including our heart. Did you know the heart is the only muscle that never stops working?   

Cardiovascular exercise keeps the heart strong. Learning what cardio exercise is and why it’s important is the first step. From there, you can explore ways of getting cardio exercise in the gym and some tips on making your experience the most enjoyable and beneficial it can be.

Simply put, cardio is exercise that raises your heart rate. When you think of going for a run or walking up and down stairs, you’re performing cardio exercise. The stronger your cardiovascular system becomes, the more capillaries you have delivering oxygen to the cells in your muscles, where those cells can then burn more fat.  

A strong cardiovascular system means more than just weight loss. Cardio exercises strengthen the heart and lungs, increase bone density, reduce stress, enhance sleep and reduce the risk of heart disease. The list goes on. Most importantly, cardio exercises will enable your body to function more efficiently in your daily life.

Cardio exercise should be personalized to fit you. Begin by finding your target heart rate. This will give you a starting point to make sure your workout is not only beneficial, but also safe.
To calculate your maximum heart rate, use the following formula:  220 minus your age equals your maximum heart rate. To calculate your target heart rate multiply your maximum heart rate by 55 percent and 85 percent. That gives you the range you’ll find the most beneficial for your workout.   

A heart rate monitor offers an important tool to help you track your exact heart rate throughout your workout. It can record the amount of time you exercise in your zone and how many calories you burn. If you don’t have a heart rate monitor, buy one.

Cardio exercise can be done inside and outside. It’s a personal preference and both offer advantages. Cardio equipment in a health club is designed specifically for exercise. Each machine is designed to imitate your body’s natural movements. Understanding what each machine does will help you decide which one works best for your body and your goals. Ideally, it will be a combination of a few of them.  

Start with the treadmill. It simulates walking or running.  This machine has both incline and speed adjustments. By increasing the incline of the bed of the treadmill, you’ll feel as though you’re walking uphill. This will also increase your heart rate because it’s more difficult. Try to use the handle for balance only, not to support yourself. When you use the treadmill without holding on, you’re engaging your core muscles to stay balanced.

An elliptical machine is a non-impact form of exercise. This cardio machine is a good alternative for people who have joint or back issues. This machine can provide upper and lower body strengthening and conditioning. You can set the resistance for a harder workout as well as the cross ramp for an increased incline. 

The recumbent bike is a beneficial cardio machine. It works the gluteal muscles. This bike allows you to change the level of resistance. Other cardio machines include the Stairmaster that simulates climbing stairs, the AMT machine that can vary from stepping to running with stride length and the rowing machine that offers a great cardio intensity workout.

Cardio exercise is one of the four cornerstones of exercise, and one of the most important.  There are various ways to increase your heart rate. Choose one that best suits your body and fitness goals. By choosing exercises you enjoy, you’ll be more apt to consistently do them. The benefits of cardio exercise far exceed just weight loss.

Posted by Paula Reece
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