Cardio: The Three Rules For Optimal Performance

By Janet Smith, PEERtrainer Health and Fitness Writer
Cardio is a very important part of a well balanced fitness plan.  Whether you have experience with regular aerobic exercise or are just beginning to learn about the benefits of cardio training, there are three  important rules of aerobic exercise that you may not know. 

Learning to implement these three steps will ensure you get the optimum results to improve your total fitness.  Omit these steps and your results may be less than optimal.  You want the best results for the time you spend with aerobics, so make sure to keep these three rules in mind:

1.  Monitor your heart rate.  According to a recent report in the newsletter HealthBeat from Harvard Medical School the definition of an aerobic exercise is “muscular movement that uses oxygen to burn both carbohydrates and fats to produce the energy needed to contract muscle cells.”    In general aerobic exercise means repeatedly moving muscles causing the heart rate to increase and remain higher than normal over an extended time frame.

Increasing the heart rate helps promote stronger blood flow delivering more oxygen and nutrients to the cells in your body.  Unless you get your heart rate higher and maintain it for a set period of time, you won’t reap the optimal benefits of aerobics. 

To monitor your heart rate, you should first find your maximum target rate.  Taking 220 minus your age gives you your maximum heart rate.  For moderately intense exertion you should aim for 50% to 75% of your maximum heart rate during the length of your exercise activity.  This rate is your target.   Any rate above 75 % is high intensity exercise.  Depending on your current fitness level reaching 50% to 75 % will ensure you’re receiving the benefits of your exercise session.   

2.  Make sure you’re allotting adequate amount of time each week for aerobic activity.  Most health and fitness experts recommend at least one hour three times per week.  Many opt for more.  Consistency is crucial to long term benefits.  An occasional jog or walk doesn’t give your body the activity it needs to perform basic body functions and maintenance. 

One way to help ensure you don’t get off track and forego regular aerobic activities is to mentally program yourself that it must be done.  Not getting in some form of aerobics places additional stress on your body.  Just like taking a shower or brushing your teeth…aerobic fitness is a requirement for a healthy body. 

3.  Make sure you are wearing appropriate clothing and shoes for the activity you choose.  This is especially important if you choose walking, running, or jogging as part of your regular routine.  Your feet can suffer if you don’t have proper fitting shoes with good support.  You’ll also want to make sure to get shoes with extra cushioning to help reduce the impact running and walking can have on your feet. 

These three rules are very important to help you achieve the results you desire from your aerobic activities. They’ll also help ensure you don’t overdo and that you are able to continue regular aerobic activities. 

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