Cardio: Train Smarter Not Harder

Cardio Train Smarter Not Harder


A lot of people are concerned with the amount of aerobic exercise they get every week and for good reason. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) adults should be getting at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate to intense aerobic activity every week. Even if you are doing 10 minutes at a time at least you are working towards the recommended goal of 150 minutes of aerobic activity every week.

For those who are actually paying attention to the results of a cardio exercise regimen there are smarter ways to workout than just hanging out on the treadmill at a moderate intensity three times a week. By paying attention to such things as intensity levels and duration we can all increase the benefits of our workouts so that we spend less time doing things that don’t work and more time doing things that do. Here’s how.

Know Your Heart Rate

When a fitness magazine or website refers to moderate or intense levels of aerobic activity what are they really talking about? Is jumping on a cardio machine at a pace that is slightly above at walk in the park considered to be moderate? A moderate workout is generally considered to be a workout that significantly raises your heart rate or that creates difficulty when, for example, you try to sing your favorite song.

Figuring Out Your Moderate Heart Rate

To ensure that you are getting a moderate workout use a heart rate monitor to measure your heart rate before you work out and again when you are breathing a bit harder than normal due to exercise. A normal heart rate is 60 to 100 beats per minute (bpm) and the CDC defines a moderate to intense heart rate as 50 to 70 percent of a person’s maximum heart rate. This number is based on your age.

To find your maximum heart rate subtract your age from 220. So if you’re 50, your maximum heart rate would be 170 beats per minute. At 50 and 70 percent your heart rate would be 85 bpm and 119 bpm respectively.

Use Interval Training to Increase Cardiac Strength

Over time it should be your goal to improve your ability to go from a low aerobic pace to a high aerobic pace quite easily. Jogging on the treadmill at the same pace every time is unlikely to help you achieve this goal. Instead try interval training such as working out on your treadmill at a quick pace until your heart rate monitor says that you have hit 85 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate. Once you hit this number slow down your training to a light walking pace and allow time for recovery. Let your heart rate dip below 60 percent and repeat the high intensity training. By practicing these types of interval exercises you will build up your cardiac strength and get more health benefits than moderate-specific workouts alone.

Days for Moderate Only Workouts

Low-level aerobic exercise can still have a place in your workout routine; use these types of steady workouts for recovery days or those days where you want to get in a workout without risking overtraining. If you are looking to increase your abilities moderate-only days should not be the focus of your workouts but maintaining easier days does make the transition from low intensity to high intensity much easier.

Closing Thoughts

You can start working out smarter by first investing in a heart rate monitor and measuring where you stand before a workout and during your current workouts. If you are serious about improving your health without wasting hours on the treadmill consider interval training to get maximum benefit in your workout routines. Regardless of your plan, as long as you are getting the recommended 150 minutes a week you are doing better than most!