By Wendy Toth
If you haven’t done cardio in a while, the thought of sweating through a run or aerobics class can be a little daunting. But according to Jeff Ford, B.S., ACSM, director of fitness at Hilton Head Health resort in South Carolina, it’s well worth a little extra effort.
“Research shows that aerobic exercise performed five days a week for at least 30 minutes equates to living a longer, better quality of life and management of chronic conditions,” Ford says. Getting your heart beating faster than it’s resting rate each day trains your body to move oxygen and blood to your muscles more efficiently. This helps your muscles use that fuel more economically as well, and ultimately you move with more ease. In other words, you end up in shape.
And while starting off easy is important so you don’t overdo it, your ultimate goal should be to keep your heart rate up. “It improves your cardiovascular health and strengthens your heart by processing oxygen and blood to the working muscles,” continues Ford. “Not to mention it also helps you burn calories when working towards weight loss or maintenance.”
So what exactly does “keeping your heart rate up” mean? Hilton Head Health recommends the Karvonen formula. Use it to find your target heart rate range:
1. Take your resting pulse (complete resting= upon waking in the morning without an alarm clock, etc.) three mornings in a row. Add them all together and divide by three, to get an average. This is your RHR (Resting Heart Rate).
2. (220)- (your age) = (MaxHR)
3. (MaxHR) – (RHR) = (Heart Rate Reserve a.k.a. HRR)
4. (HRR) x (60% )= low training range %
(HRR) x (80%) = high training range %
5. (Low training range %) + (RHR) = low target heart rate range
(High training range %) + (RHR) = high target heart rate range
Target Heart Rate Range = (Low Target Heart Rate Range—High Target Heart Rate Range)
“Based on the current American College of Sports Medicine guidelines, the heart rate range should stay between 60 percent and 85 percent of your maximum heart rate,” says Ford.
Below are a few activities he recommends to clients looking to work out for heart health.
- Treading is a workout that alternates incline and speed in intervals using a treadmill or similar piece of exercise equipment.
- Tabata Training alternates 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest for up to eight rounds on various calisthenics exercises such as jumping jacks, push-ups, and sit-ups.
- Deep Water Conditioning combines a series of cardio and strength exercises in the pool, such as high-knees and bicycle-legs.
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Wendy Toth writes and edits stories about fitness, beauty (inner and outer), health and pets for outlets like The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Weight Watchers and Pet360. She lives in Pennsylvania and Brooklyn, which is complicated, but fun. You can ask her about it through wendytoth.com.