Fitness: How To Ensure A Healthy Heart

Achieving good health consist of a proper diet and a well planned exercise program. Diet alone will not give optimum results, nor will exercise without proper diet. There needs to be a balance of the two. When it comes to exercise there also needs to be a balance between strength training and cardiovascular fitness.

Building muscle and sixpack abs takes a lot of hard work and dedication, but for overall good health, having a cardio workout plan is crucial. Having a regular strength training program is essential for building muscle and increasing strength. It is important to have a routine that hits all the major muscle groups and targets each specific area.

Strength training alone will not ensure a healthy heart. When considering the steps to take in our regimen for strength training and body building, we should also include cardio workouts for overall health, especially for the heart and lungs.

Cardiovascular fitness is a necessary part of an exercise plan directed at improving overall health and fitness. Increasing cardiovascular exercises improves muscular endurance, permitting the body to withstand activities over a length of time by supplying oxygen rich blood to the heart, lungs and vascular system.

Before beginning a fitness program, a doctor should be consulted and a physical performed. The results of the physical will provide information pertaining to the body's overall health, potential health problems and areas where cardio workouts and strength training can be used to minimize future health risks.

Specific exercise plans directed at improving cardiorespiratory endurance are referred to as cardio workouts and contain three specific elements:

Regular implementation – Cardio workout plans require a three to five day a week commitment. Alternate days may be used for rest and recovery or additional workout plans such as strength training. However, mild cardiovascular exercise such as walking can be performed daily if it doesn't cause undo strain on the bones or muscles.

Specific durationFitness plans aimed to improve the overall function of the cardiovascular system should be no shorter than 20 minutes in duration. Longer workouts will result in increased cardiorespiratory endurance.

Maintained intensity levels – Effective cardio workouts necessitate that the target heart rate is reached for a predetermined period of time based on fitness level and results desired.

The target heart rate determines the initial level of fitness of an individual and serves as a measure of progress of cardio endurance. Determining your target heart rate zone is fairly simple.
  • First find your maximum heart rate (MHR) by subtracting your age from 220.
  • Next multiply your (MHR) by 0.60 = lower end of the target heart rate zone.
  • Next multiply your (MHR) by 0.90 = upper end of the target heart rate zone.
  • These two numbers represent your target heart rate zone. You should strive to stay between these numbers during your workout.
An example calculation for a 40-year-old man is below:
  • 220 – 40 = 180 = (MHR)
  • 180 x 0.60 = 108 beats per minute
  • 180 x 0.90 = 162 beats per minute
  • Target heart rate zone = 108 to 162 beats per minute

The primary focus of any cardiovascular workout and fitness program is to achieve and maintain a target heart rate for at least 20 minutes. However, maintaining this pace may not be possible during the beginning stages of working out. Instead, use this measure as a goal to achieve to eventually reach maximum cardiovascular health.

Increased cardiovascular fitness can generally benefit anyone regardless of age or current physical shape. Improving fitness levels start with creating a cardio workout plan for the home or gym, and following the plan on a regular basis. The end result will be improved cardiorespiratory fitness, increased function of the heart, lungs and vascular system, increased metabolism, weight loss and increased psychological and physical well-being.

Health Benefits of Cardiovascular Fitness and cardio workouts are increased cardiovascular health and weight loss. However, there are other advantages, such as:

Increased mood and decreased stress – Exercise releases “feel good” chemicals into the bloodstream resulting in an increased sense of well-being, decreased stress and decreased risk of depression.

Increased immune system and energy level – Increased cardiovascular health not only impacts the heart, lungs and vascular system. It also increases the efficiency of the immune system and increases energy levels throughout the day.

Improves sleep quality –Lack of activity resulting from sitting at a desk or computer all day can make getting a restful night’s sleep difficult. Adding even 15 minutes of cardio exercise can result in a better quality of sleep at night.

Decreases “bad” cholesterol – Regular exercise can decrease blood pressure and triglyceride levels (or bad cholesterol) that lead to blockages in the arteries caused by plaque.

Cardiovascular exercises or cardio workouts are generally done at the gym on the treadmill or elliptical. However, cardiovascular fitness exercise or aerobic exercise relates to any physical activity that meets the requirements mentioned above and maintains the target heart rate. Cardio workouts can include, but are not limited to: running, walking, jogging, hiking, biking, swimming, basketball, rollerblading, jumping rope etc.

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