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Cardiovascular Training

"I can actually run for 50 minutes now if I stay in my heart rate zone. It is so exciting for me to do this."
  • Cindy P., Chipley, FL

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Cardiovascular fitness training, also known as aerobic training, is sustained exercise involving the large muscle groups. This exercise should increase the heart rate to a designated range called the target heart range or exercise heart range. Sometimes you will see the terms "rate" or "range" used interchangeably but "range" is generally a scope of numbers which encompass the more specific "rate," which is usually one number.

Using a treadmill is a great way to do cardiovascular training indoors.No matter which term is used, a range of goal numbers for the target or exercise heart rate is usually the best method of actually monitoring one's heart rate during activity. It is difficult to maintain and remain at one specific heart rate number. A range allows an individual to readily monitor his/her own target heart rate while exercising.

Some good examples of cardiovascular fitness activities include, but are not limited to, brisk walking, biking, running, swimming, cross country skiing, in-line skating, aerobic dance, and stepping. It does not matter if you do your workout indoors or out, on a machine or not. It doesn't even matter if you do a variety of different cardiovascular workouts. This is called cross training and it is an effective way to vary your cardiovascular workouts.

The bottom-line goal is to raise your heart rate to your target range, keep it there for thirty minutes, and do this at least three times per week. Make sure if you are doing an activity like swimming or in-line skating, that your skill level is sufficient enough to allow you to do a proper cardiovascular workout. Start/stop activities, such as tennis, racquetball, and basketball, are great supplemental workout fun, but do not provide enough sustained time in the target heart range to be used as your primary means of cardiovascular fitness.

In order to gain the benefits of cardiovascular training, one must do this sustained activity of the large muscle groups for a minimum of twenty to thirty minutes at least three times per week. Although some research has suggested shorter periods of five or ten minutes can give the same benefits as longer sessions, we recommend thirty minutes of sustained cardiovascular exercise three times per week as the best minimum for most people. This minimum is recommended only after safely building to this level. Of course, short periods of sustained exercise are better than remaining sedentary, but the "lack of time" reasoning that most people use for needing shorter workouts is lacking in substance. Certainly we can all find thirty minutes several times a week to invest in our health.

Your target heart range is most accurately calculated in a laboratory setting but this is not feasible for the general public. Using a general formula, you can calculate your target heart range using your age, resting heart rate, and approximate fitness level. It is important to note that general guidelines based solely on a person's age and fitness level are guidelines only. These guidelines are frequently posted in health clubs and on fitness equipment.

It is best to calculate your own target heart range using your individual resting heart rate since resting heart rates can vary significantly even among people of the same age. Many factors such as hereditary tendencies, medical conditions, and even common medications can affect one's resting heart rate.