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Cardiovascular exercise is something that should be included in everyone’s fitness regimen. There are many different activities you can choose to do such as walking, running, biking, or even playing a sport.
Cardiovascular exercise offers many benefits including increasing immunity, glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity, sense of well being, and work, recreational and sports performance and decreasing daily fatigue, anxiety/depression, hypertension, obesity, and other diseases. With these benefits, there is no doubt that it is important, and that you should do it, but you want to make sure that if you are going to take the time and energy to do it, that you are getting the most out of it. There are several things that you can do to improve your cardio workout.
Begin with a warm-up
A warm-up is meant to prepare your body for physical activity. It offers several benefits including increasing your heart and respiratory rate, increasing tissue temperature, and increasing psychological preparation for exercise. The benefits prepare your muscles, increase your metabolic rate and mentally prepare you for the workout. NASM suggests starting out with some stretches that work muscles that you specifically need stretched and doing up to 10 minutes of low to moderate intensity cardio exercise as your warm up.
Eat a proper pre-workout meal
Nutrition is very important for exercising. Proper nutrition allows you to exercise longer, delays fatigue, helps your body recover quicker, and helps prevent injury and illness. What you eat before during and after exercise is very important.
Of course, it depends on what type of exercise you will be doing and for how long, and is very individualized. But, in general, one to four hours prior to exercise, you should consume a meal that is high in carbohydrates, moderate in protein and low in fat. This will provide glucose for energy and delay fatigue.
Proper hydration is just as important as proper nutrition. It is important to drink an adequate amount of fluid, but also to avoid drinking too much fluid. Too much fluid can cause your electrolytes to be imbalanced. The recommendation is to drink 500ml (about 2 cups) of fluid 2-3 hours before exercise.
You should also make sure you stay hydrated while you are exercising. It is recommended to drink 5-12 oz of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes when exercising. Also, if you are exercising in excessive heat, or your workout causes you to sweat a lot, you may be losing electrolytes. In addition to water, you may want to hydrate yourself with a sports drink in order to replace the electrolytes that are lost.
Doing the same cardio workout day after day will get boring, and your body will get used to it. When your body adapts to doing a certain cardio workout, you will not get the full benefits. So, by adding variety to your workout, you can maximize your workout. If you always stay on the same machine when at the gym, try going on a different machine each day, or even go on a few different machines in one workout session.
You can also take different types of classes for more variety. Maybe try spin one day, step aerobics the next day, and Zumba the day after that. You get the idea. Trying different workouts will make it fun and exciting, and you will look forward to your workout each day.
Wear proper footwear
It is important to make sure you are wearing shoes that are appropriate for your body. Many people have problems with over pronation, which is usually seen in people with flatter feet, causing their ankles to roll in.
Wearing improper shoes when working out can cause many injuries such as shin splints or knee problems. Since you are on your feet for most cardio exercise, your feet are so important to keeping your spinal column aligned.
You may even want to go to a specialty store where the employees are trained to help find shoes that are perfect for your feet, and will also make other recommendations, such as orthotics, as necessary.
Interval training alternates bursts of high intensity activity with low to moderate activity. It not only will add variety to your workout, but will keep your heart rate higher during the entire workout. It will allow you to get a better workout in, in a shorter amount of time.
It helps improve your aerobic capacity, which will eventually lead to allowing you to work out for longer periods of time or at a higher intensity.
Do something you enjoy
This should be a given, but some people do cardiovascular exercise just because they think that they have to. But, it is so important to do something that you like. You will be more likely to stick with it and it will be something you look forward to doing. You will put effort into it because you enjoy it.
If you hate running with a passion, don’t run. If you love dancing, choose that as your cardio exercise. There are many dance classes or even dancing video games, and those workouts burn a ton of calories. Working out doesn’t have to be a chore.
Check your heart rate
It is recommended to work out at 60-70% of your max heart rate, which is calculated by subtracting your age from 220. For example, if you are 28 years old, your max heart rate would be 192 (220-28). 60-70% of that would be 115-135.
You can use the heart rate monitors that are on the machines at the gym, but you might want to invest in your own heart rate monitor since they are more accurate, and are based on your age, height, and weight.
Use your whole body
The more muscle groups you are able to incorporate into your workout, the more calories you will burn. Try to choose an exercise that utilizes both your upper and lower body. Also, by contracting your abdominals while exercising, you will also be using your abdominals while exercising.
For example, if you choose to use an exercise bike, use one that has the handles that also move, so you can work your arms also.
Breathing is important in order to fully oxygenate the muscles and get rid of the carbon dioxide. It is recommended to breathe in for 3 counts and out for 2 counts. This lowers your heart rate and will provide your muscles with oxygen.
If your breathing is too shallow and fast, carbon dioxide will increase, causing your heart rate to increase and lactic acid to build up, which decreases your endurance.
Next time you are doing your cardio workout, keep these tips in mind.
References used in this article