ShFit Talk #24 - Importance of Cardiovascular Exercise

So often people think of cardio as a negative, they see it as only running, or biking and would much rather just hit the weights at the gym and get their curl on, but cardiovascular is so much more than just running and equality as important as resistance training.

Cardiovascular exercise can be dancing, a HIIT workout, going to Zumba, Jumping Rope, even moving furniture or loading your arms with groceries and carrying them in. It comes in all forms. When you do any type of cardio you are working the LARGE muscle groups like your legs, not your smaller muscles like your triceps. When you work the smaller muscles your body doesn’t create the same oxygen demand that puts demand on your cardiovascular system. I mean, when was the last time you broke a sweat and was panting so hard you could barely talk from doing tricep kickbacks? On the other hand - Squat Jumps….

When you put that demand on your cardiovascular system you strengthen it. You improve your heart, lungs and circulatory system. Think about it, just like with any good exercise, you want it to challenge the targeted muscle. With cardio, that “muscle” is our entire cardiovascular system. When you strengthen your cardiovascular system you increase its ability to take in oxygen, pump blood to your working muscles and remove carbon dioxide and other unwanted crap from your system. Once your heart gets its gain on you can also recover quicker after a killer workout which reduces the stress on your vital muscles.

So how much cardiovascular exercise should a person get each week? Well that varies depending on age. Most experts recommend that the average adult (aged 18 - 64) should get a minimum of 150 min of moderate exercise or 75 min of vigorous activity each week. Little tip, adults should aim for at least 2 days of resistance or strength training like doing push-ups or lifting weights.

That sounds simple, but how many of you know when you are hitting that moderate exercise v/s vigorous? Well that goes off your max heart rate. You can estimate your max heart rate based on your age with a simple equation: 220 - YOUR AGE = YOUR MAX HEART RATE.

So for example I am 37 so my Max Heart Rate is 183.

You can then easily calculate where your heart rate should be for moderate exercise and vigorous exercise. According to the CDC Moderate exercise is when your heart is around 64-76% of your max heart rate. Vigorous on the other hand is 77-93% of your max heart rate. So I will use myself as an example again.

For Moderate:

(MAX HEART RATE) 183 x .64 = 117

(MAX HEART RATE) 183 x .76 = 139

117 - 139 bpm

For Vigorous:

(MAX HEART RATE) 183 x .77 = 140

(MAX HEART RATE) 183 x .93 = 170

140 - 170 bpm

So if I want to get a vigorous workout in, I need to keep my heart rate between 140 - 170.

**Note that the Mayo Clinic and many other organizations suggest moderate as 50-70% and vigorous as 70-85%

As I mentioned earlier age plays a role on how much exercise one should get. Children (ages 6-17) on the other hand should get about 60 min or MORE of either moderate or vigorous activity a week, and THREE of those days should be vigorous. On the other hand people over the age of 65 should get at least 2.5 hours of MODERATE exercise each week (about 30 min a day) or 1.15 hours of vigorous exercise.

So why is it important to know all those “zones”, well so we know what to target for our goals. For example if you are looking to burn fat, you are going to want your heart rate to be in that 60-70% zone for the best results. If you are looking to be able to, lets say, go for 3 rounds of 5 minutes in the ring you would want to train more often with your heart rate in that 80-90% range with some 90-100% for speed development. Take some time to consider what your goals are so you can really get the most out of your workouts. If you are working with a personal trainer, they should already have a workout plan that includes targeting your heart rate cardio zones. Feel free to ask them about it and have them give you the low-down.

Those numbers can seem overwhelming especially if you are just starting your fitness journey or coming back from an injury so it is always important to stay safe by,

  • Starting Slow and building up

  • Figure out what is right for you

  • Choose the right activity for your personal fitness level - you do NOT need to compare yourself to anyone else

  • Make sure to wear the appropriate sports gear - if you are going to jog, invest in good running shoes

  • Choose a safe and comfortable location - if you get anxious at the gym and feel like everyone is watching you, try working with a personal trainer or head over to a local park.