Cardio benefits go beyond weight loss

Paula Reece

Paula Reece

To keep healthy, we must get our bodies moving every day.  This movement strengthens our muscles, including our heart. Did you know the heart muscle is the only muscle that never stops working?  

Cardio 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 more enjoyable and beneficial.

Simply put, cardio exercise 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” or a cardiovascular exercise. The stronger your cardiovascular system becomes, the more capillaries you have delivering oxygen to the cells in your muscles, where these 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, improve sleep, reduce the risks of heart disease … and the list goes on. Most importantly, cardio exercises will make your body more efficient in your day to day living. 

Cardio exercise should be personalized to fit you. Begin by determining your target heart rate. This will give you a starting point to make sure your workout is not only beneficial, but also safe. To find your maximum heart rate, use the following formula:  220 – your age = your maximum heart rate.  To find your target heart rate, multiply you maximum heart rate by 55 percent and

85 percent. It is that range where you will find the most benefit to your workout.  

A heart rate monitor will help you track your heart rate throughout your workout. A monitor can record the amount of time you exercised in your zone and how many calories you burned. If you don’t have a heart rate monitor, buy one.

Cardio exercise can be done inside and outside. It is a personal preference and both have advantages. Cardio equipment in a health club is designed specifically for exercise. Each machine is designed to imitate your body’s natural movements.  By understanding what each machine does, you can decide which one works best for your body and your goals. Ideally, you should use a combination of machines.

Start with the treadmill, which 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 also will increase your heart rate because it’s more strenuous. 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 offers 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 crossramp for an increased incline.

The recumbent bike is a beneficial cardio machine and 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 constitutes one of the most important four cornerstones of exercise.  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’ be more apt to consistently exercise. The benefits of cardio exercise far exceed just weight loss.

Paula and Dale Reece own Crossroads Fitness Centers in Grand Junction with a downtown location in the Alpine Bank Building at 225 N. Fifth St. and an airport location at 2768 Compass Drive. For more information, call 242-8746 or log on to www.crossroadsfitness.com.
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Posted by on Feb 19 2014. Filed under Contributors. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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