Cardiovascular training, or aerobics, requires a different approach than other body parts. At the "heart" of cardiovascular training is one basic premise: if you elevate your heart rate to 65-80 percent of your maximum and keep it there for a period of at least 12 minutes it will stimulate the production of fat-burning enzymes. It will also strengthen your heart and increase the capacity of your lungs to re-oxygenate your blood more efficiently. The idea here is not to work yourself to a frenzy and go beyond your target heart rate, but to stay within that magic training range of 65-80 percent of maximum for a minimum of 12 minutes and, optimally, for 20 to 30 minutes.
Smart Tip: Training for longer periods will certainly hasten your improvement, but not on a 1-to-1, linear basis. Research has shown that the first 12 minutes of aerobic exercise produce a more lasting training effect than the second 12 minutes. So unless you're already in pretty good condition, it's probably better to do your 12 minutes more frequently (say 4-6 times per week) than it is to train for longer periods of 30 minutes or more but less frequently.
Many people believe that the primary purpose of aerobic exercise is to burn off excess calories while they're doing the exercise. However, that is not exactly true. Think about it, most aerobic activity can only burn off several hundred calories even if you exercised for an entire hour. Eat a hamburger with fries and you're already playing catch up. And you've just had lunch! The real purpose of aerobics is to stimulate the growth of the body's natural fat-burning enzymes long term so you burn more and more calories all the time, not just when you're exercising. Increase the size of the fireplace and you can burn more logs in it. The same principle applies to the calorie burning potential of your body.
Okay, so the key is to elevate your heart rate. But how do you do it? Walking, jogging, running, cycling, rowing, jumping rope, running in place, and aerobic dancing are all fine. As long as your heart rate is elevated into your training range and remains there for 12 minutes minimum, any of these activities will do a pretty good job. However, SmartGYM's cardio program has an edge. Not only can you walk, jog, or run against SmartGYM's formidable Power Band resistance system, but you can also perform upper body strength training exercises at the same time. And since you're able to engage more muscle groups simultaneously, you get results faster.
Heart Rate and the Training Range...
To determine your training range, simply calculate the lower limit at 65% of your Age-Predicted Maximum Heart Rate and the upper limit at 80% of your Age-Predicted Maximum Heart Rate. Age-Predicted Maximum Heart Rate = 220 minus your age. If you're 45 years old, for example, your lower limit is 220 - 45 x 0.65 = 114. Similarly, your upper limit is 220 - 45 x 0.80 = 140. If you elevate your heart rate to between 114 and 140 beats per minute continuously for at least 12 minutes, you'll get the desired training effect on your heart.
Smart Tip: It takes a few minutes of exercise to elevate your heart rate into your training range. This time does not count toward your 12 minutes.
Take Your Pulse!
Check your pulse by resting your index and middle fingers lightly against the carotid artery on either side of your neck underneath the curve of the jawbone. Count the beats for 6 seconds and multiply by 10 to calculate your heart beats per minute. Or, for a rough estimate, you can use the "talk test." If you're gasping and panting so much that you are unable to talk, then you're probably exercising too hard and are beyond your training range.
Consistency is the key. If you do your 12 minutes 2-4 times a week, within a few weeks time you'll begin to notice that you feel more energetic, you won't tire as easily, and your body will start to burn calories more efficiently and begin to lose some of its fat stores (providing you eat a sensible low fat diet!).
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