Friday, February 15, 2008

Cardiovascular Exercise

By Courtney Westlake


There might be more to running or riding your bike than you might think.

Exercises like this are classified as cardiovascular exercise, which is an aerobic exercise that involves the large muscle groups, said Amanda Jillson, assistant director of fitness and instructional programs at the TRAC. When performing cardio exercise, you want to work out at a certain intensity for your heart, Jillson said.

Your heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute. Your target heart rate is a range that is considered to be the best rate to give your heart a good workout; this range is between 50 and 85 percent of your maximum heart rate, Jillson said.

To find your maximum heart rate when working out, you can ask your doctor or use a rough estimate through a calculation. For women, take 226 minus your age, and for men, take 220 minus your age. Then take that number and multiply it by .5 to get the lower end of your target heart rate. Multiply that number by .85 to get the upper end.

If you don't have a heart monitor to use when performing cardio exercise, many exercise machines have grips that allow you to monitor your heart when using them, Jillson said.

Cardiovascular exercise can be done indoors or outdoors. Some indoor exercises use machines such as ellipticals, stair-climbers, stationary bikes, treadmills and more. Several group fitnesses classes could also be considered cardio exercise because your heart rate is elevated and kept at a constant rate for the majority of the class, Jillson said.

Outdoor exercises are running, jogging, walking or jumping rope.

"With any cardio exercises, you want to make sure to have the proper attire," Jillson recommended. "Make sure you have shoes that fit and don't rub on your toes or your heels, and wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing."

There are five major benefits to cardiovascular exercise. The first and most obvious is that it can decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and help your heart. Cardio exercise can also lower blood pressure, burn calories (how many depends on the duration and type of exercise), improve your psychological state and lastly, it can raise your metabolic rate, Jillson said.

"There have been been research studies showing that if you do enough cardio exercise, your metabolism will increase, which means you'll be burning more calories, just by living," she said. "Your body will reap many benefits from cardiovascular exercise."