Get Started: Beginner's Cardio Guide
Cardiovascular exercise is beneficial for mind and body. It is a great way to relieve stress and maintain a healthy weight. It can also help improve cholesterol, heart function, and muscle mass, all while reducing your risk of heart disease and osteoporosis.
Cardio doesn’t just mean running. Walking and slower-paced jogging count, too. The average amount of calories burned during walking, jogging, and running are 305, 545, and 770 calories per hour, respectively. So if you are just starting out or simply feel more comfortable at a slower pace, you can still reap the benefits.
You don’t need fancy equipment. A safe route in your neighborhood, a nearby park, or high school track will put you in business. Home treadmills are another option, and don’t underestimate the workout you can get from your living room staircase -- walk continuously up and down for 15 minutes and you’ll be feeling the burn.
The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association recommend moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise for 30 minutes, 5 days a week or more vigorous workouts for 20 minutes, 3 days a week. If you have any medical conditions or are new to the cardio scene, check with your physician before getting started.
You don’t need much for a super cardio workout, just good shoes, a way to check your pulse, and something to sip on.
Invest in a pair of comfortable running shoes and reserve them just for exercise. They don’t have to be the most expensive brand either. Look for something with good arch support that doesn’t feel too heavy on your feet. Many athletic stores have trained sales staff to help you find the right shoe.
Heart Rate Monitor
Use a heart rate monitor to keep track of exercise intensity. The higher your heart rate the more calories you are burning, but you want to be able to pace yourself to avoid becoming exhausted after 2 minutes! You can calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age in years by 220. Stay within 50 to 85% of your maximum heart rate when exercising.
The more you sweat, the more fluid you need to replace. Keep a water bottle handy before and after exercise and take one along for long duration workouts.
Maximize your workouts by mixing things up; inclines and intervals make exercise sessions more challenging and fun.
Choose an exercise route with at least one good hill – the up and down will engage different muscle groups and there is always the reward of the easier downhill portion.
Challenge yourself by changing up the intensity within your workout. Interval training can help you build endurance and burn more calories in a shorter period of time. For example, sprint for 60 seconds, followed by 2 to 3 minutes of light jogging. Repeat for the duration of a 20 to 30 minute workout and you will notice a huge difference.
Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer, and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc.