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Cardiovascular Conditioning Benefits

Cardiovascular exercise, or cardio, is any continuous aerobic movement (walking, dancing, skating, biking, running, swimming) which uses oxygen and fat to provide your energy.

Read the list below of the basic things you need to know about reaping the benefits of cardiovascular exercise.

Getting started:

  • Pick a form of cardio that seems like the most fun to you. Warm up for about 5 minutes at a low intensity and followed by light stretching.
  • Begin your workout and get your heart rate up gradually. Your breathing rate can be your guide, letting you know if you're workout is burning fat primarily. Here is an easy way to tell if you're in the right heart-rate zone:
    • If you're breathing so hard you can't speak, then the intensity is too high to be able to continue for much longer. Back off and give yourself a break.
    • If you can have conversation easily without breathing getting in your way, you're not exercising hard enough.
    • The perfect intensity is somewhere in the middle where speech is possible, but tough.

Exercise Beginners:

Start small. A 20 minute walk at a moderate pace is perfect in the beginning. Do this 3 or 4 days per week. (up to 6 if you have to time, energy and desire.)

Add 10 minutes to your walk every two weeks. 

Listen to your body. If you're tired one day, take a day off. It's no big deal. Just pick up where you left of in a day or so.

As the weeks go by and your fit body emerges, you may be tempted to over-do it. Remember rest days are important to recover and rebuild.

Unless you decide to train for an endurance sport, it's not necessary to do cardio for any longer than 45 to 60 minutes.

Keep a healthy attitude about exercise and avoid obsession by not being too hard or demanding on yourself.

Make your cardio workouts more fun:

  • Listen to music -- a headphone radio or tape player with music you love or a book on tape (so you can grow intellectually too!!)
  • Bring along a friend for fun, encouragement and someone to hold you accountable.
  • Try out different exercises, routes or terrains (like mall walks, kickboxing, kayaking, trail running, stair climbing).
  • Get a dog. A pal to run with adds a new dimension to exercise.

"How can I fit cardio into my busy schedule?"

Short bouts of exercise count. 5, 10 or 15 minutes here and there can all add up at the end of the day to one heck of a great workout. Although you won't further yourself much endurance-wise, you will still burn extra calories and fat. Some things you can do:

  1. Instead of a business lunch or coffee, have a business power walk.
  2. Plan active dates or outings with friends. Hikes are great!
  3. Make it a rule that if you're only going within a mile of your home, walk there. Burn fat for fuel, not gas.
  4. Have access to your exercise shoes at all times for spontaneous jaunts.
  5. Combine intellectual and physical fitness with books on tape.
  6. Carry your groceries.
  7. Take the stairs
  8. During a bathroom break, trek up a couple of flights of stairs.
  9. Jump rope for 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes before bed.
  10. Park as far away as possible and then take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Be creative!

Benefits of Exercise on Cardiovascular Risk Factors:

Regular physical exercise can:

  1. Help you lose weight, especially fat weight.
  2. Improve your bodies ability to maximally uptake oxygen and deliver oxygen to your working muscles (defined as your VO2 Max). This measure is generally regarded as the best measure of your physical fitness level.
  3. Lower your resting heart rate, by allowing your heart to pump more blood per beat. This means your heart is not working as hard when you are at rest.
  4. Lower or help control your blood pressure, both systolic and diastolic. This is especially important for people with high blood pressure-hypertension.
  5. Lower your Body Mass Index (BMI). This is the ratio of body weight (in kilograms) to height (in meters). Increased BMI is associated with an increase in morbidity and mortality.
  6. Reduce total cholesterol. This includes lowering LDL-the bad type of cholesterol, and increasing HDL-the good type of cholesterol.
  7. Reduce circulating levels of triglycerides. This is the amount of free fatty acid found in the blood.
  8. Improves the functioning of your immune system.
  9. Reduce the risk of heart disease.
  10. Increases insulin sensitivity to prevent against type II diabetes (adult onset diabetes).
  11. Reduce the risk of having a stroke.

Benefits of Exercise for the Aging Process and Functional Capacity

Regular physical exercise can:

  1. Increase your level of muscular strength.
  2. Increase your stamina and ability to do continuous work.
  3. Increase or maintain your bone mineral density to prevent osteoporosis.
  4. Increase muscular endurance.
  5. Help you maintain your resting metabolic rate to prevent weight gain.
  6. Provide protection against injury.
  7. Maintain or improve joint integrity.
  8. Help you to maintain an independent lifestyle.
  9. Improves your balance and coordination.
  10. Reduce the risk of developing colon cancer.
  11. Reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.

Benefits of Exercise for Mental Health and Well-Being

Regular physical exercise can:

  1. Reduce your level of anxiety.
  2. Help you manage stress more effectively.
  3. Improve your positive self-esteem and confidence.
  4. Help alleviate depression.
  5. Improve your appearance.
  6. Help you relax.
  7. Combat the likelihood of many degenerative problems.
  8. Improve your overall quality of life.
  9. Teach you about goal-setting and dedication.
  10. Can assists in efforts to stop smoking.
  11. Help to relieve and prevent migraine headache attacks.
  12. Can help you sleep more restfully.
  13. Help improve your immune system.

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