One of the most important things you can do for your weight loss goals is regular cardio exercise. You are probably thinking... which exercises are the most effective? There are many to choose from such as: running, bicycling, elliptical trainer, swimming, step aerobics, and walking.
I would also like to add hooping to this list, because it is an amazing cardio workout. It is one of the fun ways to burn calories and getting in great shape.
First of all, cardio is short for cardiovascular, which refers to your heart. This powerful muscle is about the size of your fist, and it needs to stay strong and healthy in order to pump blood through out your entire body.
Cardiovascular exercise raises your heart rate and keeps it elevated for a period of time. It is important for your overall health and for accelerated weight loss.
Another name for cardiovascular exercise is aerobic exercise. Aerobic actually means "with Oxygen," and refers to the use of oxygen in the body's metabolic or energy-generating process.
By doing cardio exercise on a regular basis you can experience these recognized health benefits:
So if you want to feel better, loose weight, and reduce stress, you need cardio exercise.
Choosing the best cardio exercise really depends on what is accessible to you and what fits your personality. Think about the kind of activities you like to do. If you like going to the gym, then you will have access to many exercise equipment such as: stair masters, stationary bikes, treadmills, elliptical trainers, etc.
But, if you prefer outdoor activities, then your neighborhood sidewalk can be much less intimidating than the gym. This also will be your least expensive option because you have not gym fees. You can team up with a friend to run laps around the track at the local high school.
Whether you're at the gym, or engaging in outdoor activities, or even working out to your favorite exercise video at home, just about any activity will work. There is no best cardio exercise. Anything that you enjoy and that gets your heart rate up will do.
It's important to choose an activity or several activities you enjoy, otherwise it will just feel like work.
Once you have chosen the type of activity you enjoy doing, you need to work on how long to do it. The duration of your cardio sessions depends on your level of fitness and your goals. For weight loss, it is recommended to do 30 and up to 45 minutes of cardio 4 or more days a week.
If you can't get through a full 30 minutes the first time, that's okay. Even walking is considered a great cardio workout, so do what comes naturally and walk. If you are a beginner, just start with 10-20 minutes and add more time to each workout until you can do the full 30 minutes. Just continue to work on building your endurance.
Finding Your Zone
When you are doing cardio it is very important to remember to make sure you are working within your Target Heart Rate Zone. Of course this will change as you get older and as you get fitter. You will have to adjust your cardio sessions accordingly.
You may be asking... just how do you calculate the target heart rate zone? Okay, time for some simple math.
No really. It's simple. :-)
First, you will need to figure out your maximum heart rate, which is the beats per minute (bpm). Subtract your age from 220. For example, if you are 40 years old your maximum heart rate is 220 - 40 = 180 beats per minute (bpm).
Remember this formula: 220 - (Your Age) = Max. Heart Rate
The target heart rate zone for healthy people is 50% to 75% of the maxium heart rate. For beginners who are just getting in shape you would calculate more toward 50% of your maximum heart rate. For people who are in great shape it would be more - toward 75%.
Here is an example, a beginner whose age is 40 with a maximum heart rate of 180 bpm, calculate 180 x .50 = 90 heart beats per minute as the target heart rate.
If you want to measure your heart rate while you're working out, you could use a strap-on heart rate monitor or take your heart yourself.
You can do this by placing two fingers at the back corner of your lower jaw, then slide down about an inche until you feel your pulse through the carotid artery. Press gently and count your pulse for 10 seconds. Multiply this number by 6 to find your beats per minute (pbm).
For more information on physical activity and cardio exercise you can visit the American Heart Association website. Also, Wikipedia has an excellent information about Cardio Exercise.