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There are FIVE factors when we think about any part of a fitness regime (cardiovascular, flexibility, or strength training).  Each is important, and each should play a part in your fitness plan.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be discussing these factors - what they mean, how to implement them - for each fitness segment.

Let’s start with cardio.

Cardiovascular exercise builds a foundatio for overall good health.  Studies have shown that raising your heartrate 30 minutes/day 3-5 days/week can reduce blood pressure, reduce the risks of heart disease, fight osteoporosis, help control diabetes, stimulate your immune system, fight anxiety and depression.

Oh, yeah, and it helps you lose weight.

So are you ready to get the skinny on the 5 factors for a good cardio program?

Before going any further, I highly recommend that you visit your doctor for a thorough physical and get her OK to continue.  This physical should include a screen blood test. If you are over 50, or younger with a family history of heart disease, insist on treadmill test too.  (I have mine every year.. it’s my birthday present to myself).

Now that you've gotten the All-Clear, the first factor is choosing the right activity.

We all think of walking as the perfect cardio exercise, and for many it is.  However if you suffer from arthritis, swimming or bicycling may put less strain on your joints.
Some activities that cardio fitness:

Outside                    In The Gym
walking treadmill
bicycling exer-cycle
swimming elliptical
running cross-track machine
dancing aerobic class
skating stair climber
hiking                      rowing machine

Sure looks like it should be easy enough to choose one or two things you’ll enjoy doing.

The second factor in cardio fitness is Intensity. For an activity to contribute to your cardio fitness, you have to get your heart rate up. An easy formulas if you haven't been exercise much lately is:
220 - your age in years = maximum heart rate so
220 - 42 = 178 MHR

If, however, you have been exercising and have some cardio fitness, consider:
210 - half your age = MHR same person
210 - 21 = 189 MHR

For the record, I now use the second calculation for my own assessments: 210-28=182.

You do not need to work to your MHR, in fact that would quite inadvisable for any period of time.  When getting started on a cardio program, aim for a target of 60-70% of your MHR.  

In the first case, a range of  108-125 would be appropriate, with the goal of working near in the upper half of that range.  The experience 40 year old exerciser has a range of 114 to 132.  Myself? 110-128 if I wanted to stay in cardio-training range only.

The Third and Fourth Factors of Fitness work hand-in-hand: Duration and Frequency.

Think of duration as the length each time you exercise.  Frequency, on the other time, is how many days a week you choose to exercise.  

If you are exercising strictly for cardio health, you can get by with a duration of 20-60 minutes and a frequency of 3 days a week.  

However, if you look to your cardio exercise for weight loss, your duration must be 30-60 minutes and your frequency should be 5 times a week.  

Make sure you don’t plan those 5 days (or even those 3 days) all in a row.  The body gets stronger and heals on your rest days.  Make sure you don’t do a repeated type of exercise more than 3 days in a row.

Since I am at my goal weight, and outperform my physician's expectations for cardio health, I aim a frequency of 3-4 cardio sessions a week with 80-85% intensity level for 20-30 minute duration.
By the end of a session, I'm drenched in sweat.  Later, I'll discuss HIIT cardio and why I work at a much higher level of intensity than these recommendations show.

The final step in fitness program is the ongoing progress.  If you always do what you've always done, your results will decrease.  As your body becomes more fit, you must increase intensity or duration simply to get the same results.  

In my next article, we’ll look at specific plans for activities stating intensity, and duration and writing the progression.
Better Every Year is the goal of writer Debra Roby. She has been published at [Link Removed]


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