The real power of being fit is in the ability of the cardiovascular system to perform at high levels throughout the day. The process of becoming fit is inherently tied to the heart’s ability to pump blood and oxygen to the organs, tissues, muscles, and extremities during periods of peak demand. The conditioning process is a daily effort requiring activity and movement. The training process is the planned activity that is designed to stress the system intentionally over time and at a prescribed intensity. They are two sides of the same coin and will be highlighted in this article.
The benefits of cardiovascular development and training are: Increased cardiac output (stroke volume), decreased blood pressure, reduced blood sugar levels and increased insulin sensitivity, increased aerobic capacity, increased energy levels, improved sleep patterns, improved emotional balance, decreased risk of developing heart disease, and of course – improved ability to control body weight. These and other benefits are derived from the purposeful movement and increased adaptability of the human body. We were meant to move, even run, and over the millennia have learned NOT to run – or even move – and this has led to the rise of chronic and debilitating diseases such as diabetes and heart disease on a massive scale.
Determining Your Training Heart Rate
The standard formula that has been used to determine your training heart rate has been a simple one: 220-your age = your maximum heart rate. Take the result and multiply by 55-85% and get the range for most people’s training heart rates. It is flawed and subject to a 10-20% margin of error. Example: 220-66 (my age) = 154x.85=131 or my maximum training heart rate. If by chance I am de-conditioned and have not exercised in quite a while I would choose a lower percentage – 70% or 108 beats per minute for my training heart rate.
The training number (or intensity) is subject to the individual’s level of fitness, medical profile, and their ability to perform the exercise as designed at the prescribed rate. If you feel that your weight is an issue then you start at a lower intensity (65-75% for example) for a shorter period of time, increasing the number of minutes gradually over time. This is the conditioning aspect of cardio conditioning and training. It is the first phase of the cardio conditioning process and can last up to 6 months to a year (or more), depending upon the individual’s ability and how often you schedule sessions during the week.
I have been a runner since 1964 so for the past 48 years I have been training my cardiovascular system at higher intensity levels in order to maintain its capacity to deliver blood and oxygen to my body’s tissues and organs – for a very long time. This is the point of the training activity over time. Training is determined by the body’s ability to adapt to varying levels of intensity over time. The more flexible and adaptable the program becomes the more flexible and adaptable the cardio system becomes. This long term approach enables and empowers us to reach for higher levels of achievement and accomplishment over time. Cardio conditioning and training are the long term partners in the fitness formula for success. Effort and discipline MUST be demonstrated over time for results to take hold and again, recording the training sessions is KEY to remaining dedicated, motivated, and directed toward your goals.
The final point I want to make about cardio training is that there are an unlimited number of activities that qualify as cardio conditioning and training methods. They are as diverse as the number of people engaging in these activities. Walking, swimming, cycling, hiking, skiing, rollerblading, skating, playing or participating in endurance sports and many others you can define for yourself can open the door to a happy and healthy fitness lifestyle. Running has always been my passion and over the past 48 years I have run approximately 70,000 miles. It is my hope that I will reach 100,000 miles before I leave this planet. Whatever you choose to do over the course of your life for cardio health and fitness make sure you choose something you LOVE to do. This is the secret to a long and healthy life. What is the best exercise? Answer: The one that you WILL DO! It is that simple. So get moving and breathe today!
Exercise to me is life itself. In our world today we are encouraged to sit – and sit some more. It is toxic to life and our lives in particular. Cardio activities are “breathing” activities. They require us to move our WHOLE bodies – not just individual parts. The feelings of joy and happiness that are generated by “intentionally” moving our bodies on a daily basis are lasting. They can carry us through many of life’s ups and downs – and help us emerge whole and healthy on the other side of sadness or defeat. I can remember many years where I was struggling emotionally, financially, and spiritually and running “saved” me so that I could try again tomorrow. My tomorrows came because I spent some of my days in activity that I loved – and that made all the difference. I believe in exercise as the KEY to our future health and well being. Let’s decide today to get moving and have many “happy tomorrows”!
Nicholas Prukop is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer & a Health Coach and fitness professional with over 25 years of experience. His passion for health and fitness comes from his boyhood in Hawaii, where he grew up a swimmer on Maui. He found his calling in writing his first book “Healthy Aging & You: Your Journey to Becoming Happy, Healthy & Fit” and since then he has dedicated himself to empowering, inspiring and enabling people of all ages to reach for the best that is within them and become who they are meant to be – happy, healthy and fit – and be a part of a world where each person can contribute their own unique gifts to life.