Love it or hate it, cardiovascular exercise is a necessary component of any healthy lifestyle whether you’re training for a marathon or simply working toward a healthier heart. Here’s how to optimize your cardio training.
Cardiovascular training is an aerobic exercise which increases heartbeats and keeps it up for an extended period of time (typically between 20-60 minutes). Cardio is vital and extremely beneficial— it has been shown to improve blood pressure, increase HDL (good) cholesterol while decreasing LDL (bad) cholesterol, reduce body fat, decrease the glucose-stimulated insulin response, improve heart and lung function and efficiency, and decrease anxiety, tension, and depression. It also improves performance and stamina and decreases fatigue and risk of injury. Combined, these benefits greatly lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by reducing risk factors such as obesity and hypertension.
The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity). This includes activities like playing sports, jogging, swimming or biking.
Whether you only stick to cardio a few days a week or it’s a part of a larger fitness routine, there are several ways to optimize its benefits:
1. Use a heart rate monitor to find your Target Heart Rate (THR).
In order to understand how hard you should exercise and reach the proper intensity level that will improve your individual health, fitness, and body, you need to know how to measure it. Use the Karvonen formula to find your THR. Start at 220 and subtract your age— this is your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR). A 20-year-old’s MHR would be 200. Then subtract MHR by Resting Heart Rate (RHR). If you’re 20 years old with an RHR of 60 beats per minute (bpm), your Target Heart Rate would be 140 (200 – 60) bpm. Keep in mind that as you age and improve performance, your MHR and RHR change, so recalculate your THR from time to time. You should be looking for ways to optimize your cardio year over year.
2. Optimize Your Intensity.
Once you know your Target Heart Rate, you can manipulate your exercise intensity, or percentage of maximum aerobic capacity (VO2 max). Common intensity landmarks are 25% (low), 65% (moderate), and 85% (high) VO2 max. To determine where your heart rate should land, multiply the percentage VO2 by your THR. For example, if you want to work at moderate intensity (65% VO2 max), with a THR of 140, simply multiply 140 by .65 which would be 91 bpm. This is the optimal moderate intensity for your body and will grant you the best results.
3. Keep Your Body Guessing.
In addition to varying intensity, combine High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and Moderate-Intensity Cardio and vary the types of aerobic exercises you use each week. When performing cardio (or any training, for that matter) you’re pushing your body to adjust to new parameters, which is what builds strength, stamina, and burns fat. Once the body fully adjusts, these results diminish. By constantly throwing new challenges at the body, it will keep pushing itself to meet those challenges and you will continue to see results.
At Biostrap, we aim to improve and optimize everyone’s health with real-time metrics. Use Biostrap’s heart rate monitoring to understand and incorporate your specific cardio intensity levels and reach optimal performance. Monitor your Heart Rate Variability to assess improved performance and overall health over time.