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. 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.
FLEXIBILITY Flexibility is an important component of fitness that is often neglected. Flexibility is not something just for dancers, gymnasts, and martial arts athletes to work on. Flexibility is an important part of fitness for everyone regardless of age, gender, goals, or experience. Poor flexibility of the low back and hamstrings (back of upper leg) has been shown to contribute to low back pain. This is why flexibility testing is included in the President’s Challenge Physical Fitness Awards Program.
These tests, administered twice yearly to school age children, are health-related fitness tests. Since poor flexibility is a contributor to possible future low back pain, it is important to recognize and correct flexibility problems as soon as possible. It is never too late to start improving overall flexibility. Good flexibility will help alleviate stiffness, prevent injuries, and maintain good range of motion in the joints. It is important to focus on the following flexibility tips when working on this crucial fitness component: – Never stretch a cold muscle.
This means minimally five to ten minutes of light movement of the large muscles groups by jogging, biking, dancing, etc. – Always perform stretches correctly. Good form is of utmost importance. – DO NOT BOUNCE! Find the point at which you feel the stretch and then hold it. Twenty to thirty seconds is a good general length to hold stretches. -Make sure you are stretching all of your major muscle groups. Do not just do the flexibility stretches that you enjoy or that are easy for you. Overall flexibility is important for overall fitness.
– If you have specialty areas of flexibility that require additional work (for sport-specific goals or specialized rehabilitation needs) do not neglect other areas to focus on the specialty area. Spend additional time to improve that area. – Remember that flexibility is very individual. Do not try to mirror another person’s stretch point. That point could be too difficult or too easy for you. Everyone is different. – Your stretch point is the point at which you feel the stretch is working but not to the point of feeling pain. Feel the stretch, not the pain. The old saying, “No pain, no gain,” does not apply to stretching.
RESISTACE TRAINING Resistance training is the term used to describe using weights, machines, and even your own body weight to effectively work your muscles. It is the umbrella term used to accurately describe all forms of resistance training, whether working with weights or not. Although strength training accurately describes what resistance training does, many people do not use the term because they think it only applies to those trying to become bigger and stronger when, in fact, all resistance training which is correctly done indeed increases strength, but does not necessary visibly increase size.
Resistance training does improve the look and tone of the body but it is now known to be more than just a specialized exercise activity. Medical research has shown that resistance training does the following: – Strengthens the muscular system – Strengthens the skeletal system – Improves bone density (decreases the chance of osteoporosis) – Increases metabolism – Improves posture – Limits atrophy of the muscles – Aids in hypertension control – Aids in cholesterol control – Aids in body fat control – Increases circulation
– Aids in prevention of adult-onset diabetes – Improves mood and self-esteem – Improves quality of life – Aids in the prevention of heart disease and certain cancers These are just a few of the many benefits of resistance training as well documented by medical professionals. A well-planned resistance training program should be a part of everyone’s health and fitness lifestyle regardless of age, gender, or goals. Resistance training can be done anywhere and without specialized equipment. You do not have to join a health club or spend a lot of money.
You can do resistance training using barbells, dumbbells, specialty machines such as Nautilus and Cybex, resistance bands, and even by using your own body as resistance. Common household products can be used when resistance training. The most important aspect of resistance training is correct performance of the exercise. Too many people become concerned with how fast an exercise is performed or how heavy a weight is being used. This means that the exercise is done incorrectly. This can cause injury and most often results in endless resistance training without benefit or results.