Living Well

The Importance of Cardiovascular Exercise for Heart Health

Harry Koch, Exercise Specialist, West Jeff Fitness Center
The Importance of Cardiovascular Exercise for Heart Health

Arguably, the most important aspect of any fitness routine is cardiovascular exercise. Cardiovascular exercise is any form of exercise that gets the heart rate elevated and keeps it elevated for an extended period of time. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a minimum of 20-30 minutes of moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise 5 or more days per week. This exercise can be done in short 10 minute intervals with rest periods in between. If possible, try to keep your heart rate elevated for the entire 10 minutes.

The recommended minimum target heart rate range is 55-60 percent up to 80-85 percent of your maximum heart rate for moderate intensity. Exercise above 85 percent of your maximum heart rate is typically labeled as high intensity exercise. Rate of perceived exertion (how hard the exercise feels for you) is a reliable indicator of heart rate. As long as the exercise feels “moderate” to you and not low intensity, you can be confident you are doing enough intensity.

The most common forms of cardiovascular exercise include walking/jogging, bicycling, swimming, and using any of the machines at your local gym. Below, I will highlight some of my personal favorites and discuss them briefly. Remember to always consult your physician prior to beginning a new exercise routine and exercise according to your own rate of perceived exertion (intensity). Please come speak with me for further guidance.

Treadmill walking/jogging: I recommend a minimum 1 percent incline in order to better approximate outdoor walking. Treadmills typically have a heart rate monitor feature, so use it in order to assess how hard you are working your heart. Also, one of the few places you can pretend to climb a hill here in South Louisiana.

Stepmill/Stair climber: One of the most important principles of fitness training is specificity. Specificity means training your body to do the activities that you want it to be able to do. Everyone wants to be able to climb stairs with ease, so utilize this machine accordingly.

Swimming: A great way to mix up your workout routine and minimize the continued stress on the body, yet get a great full-body cardiovascular workout. When your body feels like it wants a break from the stresses of the land-based work, go for a swim and try and keep your heart rate elevated.

Body Weight Training: Utilizing your own body weight is one of the smartest ways to train. Be creative and flexible here but you almost can’t go wrong as long as you keep your heart rate elevated for the duration. A beginner recommendation is to pick a series of exercises and do each one for 30 seconds. Try to get to at least 5 minutes before you take a break. Try to go from a challenging exercise, like burpees to an easier exercise, such as arm circles, in order to make the circuit easier to get started.

For more information, contact our Fitness and Wellness Centers. You can call 504.349.6908 to reach our Terrytown location, located at 175 Hector Avenue or contact 504.349.6164 to reach our Marrero location at 1121 Medical Center Blvd.

About Harry:

Harry obtained a Masters of Education in Health Promotion/Human Performance from the University of New Orleans. He is certified through the American College of Sports Medicine as a Certified Exercise Physiologist. His specific interests relate to triathlon, distance running, swimming and the psychological aspects of behavior management and physical fitness. He has also completed a marathon and over 4 half-Ironman distance triathlons.