Cardiovascular fitness can be achieved with surprisingly little exercise. One's first inclination, when embarking on a cardio exercise program, usually is to load up the schedule with hours of running or walking. It is better to make a smart approach to a cardiovascular exercise regimen by considering a two factors: having a cardiovascular fitness goal, and consideration of long-term wear and tear on the body.
CARDIOVASCULAR FITNESS GOAL Like any other worthwhile endeavor, entering a cardiovascular exercise program without clearly defined goals is less effective. It is helpful to consider a few aspects of cardiovascular fitness before setting these goals.
Long, low intensity cardiovascular exercise such as walking for an hour or longer, has the tendency to burn more from the body's natural fat reserves. Whereas, brief, high intensity cardiovascular training tends to burn more calories in a single workout. There are gurus in both camps. Some say it is best to spend an hour or more a day walking to burn fat right out of the reserves. Others claim that short burst of high intensity activity to tear into the body's calorie reserves and force the body to increase metabolism is the way to go.
If time is a factor, perhaps it is best to engage in high-intensity interval-based cardiovascular activities three to four times a week for 20 minutes each workout. If you are afraid your cardiovascular exercise will eat into your muscle mass, perhaps it is better to go on long walks for 45 to 90 minutes.
Your body will change based on the type of cardio activities you engage in. This is plain when looking at athletes. Sprinters, who engage in short bursts of high intensity exercise, have plenty of bulky, fast-twitch muscle fiber. This type of fiber is meant for emergencies, like running from danger. With high intensity training, the muscles will bulk up and become more powerful over the short run.
With long, mid-intensity training, such as marathon running, the body will slim down, shed excess weight, both fat and muscle, to become light and sleek. By repeatedly training your body for distance running, or any other drawn out, mid-intensity exercise, you are telling your body it needs to be slight, sleek, and able to withstand endurance.
When forming your cardio fitness goal, bear these criteria in mind: do you want to train for distance, slimming with reduced muscle mass, or do you want to train for power, increased muscle definition, more power over the short run. Or do you want to lose fat but not eat too veraciously into your muscle reserves with low intensity walking on an infrequent basis. Remember that your body can not train effectively for both endurance and short-term power; you must define your goal then train accordingly.
LONG-TERM WEAR AND TEAR ON THE BODY Some cardiovascular exercises have lasting and, in some cases, debilitating effects on the body. These effects often do not show themselves until later in life. Cardiovascular exercise, hence, can be divided into two separate types: high impact, and low impact. High impact cardio exercise includes activities such as running, stair-stepping, high energy aerobic dancing. These activities are called high-impact, because they impact the joints, the tendons, and the ligaments. The human body does not function optimally at a full sprint. These activities are considered emergency actions by the system. To engage in high-impact exercise can damage the body long-term, causing arthritis and limited mobility.
Low-impact cardio exercise, on the other hand, generate much less wear and tear on the body. These activities include exercises such as elliptical, cycling, and brisk walking. Such activities fit more closely the activities that the body is designed to perform.
Running races might be fun and social, but, perhaps, such activities should be sparingly executed. Remember, the brighter you burn, the shorter you will have power to illuminate.
By considering your goal, and the nature of your cardiovascular exercise program, you can craft a regimen that will work within your schedule and according to your specifications. Like anything worthwhile, plan, then execute. Results will come much quicker with a well thought-out method.
- Craig, Nybo
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