Fit Tips: How to Stay FitWhat is the Best Cardiovascular Exercise?
What is the best cardiovascular (CV) activity? The answer is simple; there really is no "best" CV exercise. All types have benefits, and no one exercise is a magic pill that will produce greater results than the others.
Although some differences exist between CV modalities, the benefits to your body are essentially the same. It's important is to know your options, determine what you like to do and get moving. Any CV exercise is better than none.
Different Types of Cardiovascular Activities
Cardiovascular, or aerobic, exercise is any continuous activity that gets your heart working and can be sustained from 15 to 60 minutes or longer. It generally uses large muscle groups, such as the legs, hips and glutes, but some activities, including swimming and cross-country skiing, engage the entire body. Common CV activities include walking, jogging, cycling and hiking.
You don't need to belong to a health facility or fitness center to participate in CV activity, but the equipment there can give you even more options. Aerobic classes generally provide lots of CV choices as well.
Two main differences exist among different CV exercises: whether they are weight-bearing and whether they engage the entire body.
- Whether an exercise is weight-bearing or not depends on how your body is supported. With a weight-bearing exercise, your feet and legs support your body weight. Running, walking, jogging, dancing, stair climbing and rope jumping are examples. These types of exercise are great for strengthening your bones. With a non-weight-bearing exercise, something else supports your body, as in bicycling, rowing and swimming. These exercises tend to be easier on your back, knees and other joints and therefore can have a lower risk of injury than weight-bearing exercises.
- Total-body exercises use your entire body. They include some elliptical cross-trainers, rowing, skiing and swimming. They work more muscle groups than those that use the lower body only, such as running and cycling. One type isn't necessarily better than the other; they simply are different.
Mix it Up
Figure out what you like to do. Because there is no ideal CV exercise, your best bet is to vary your workouts so that you don't get bored and so that your body doesn't become too accustomed to doing your chosen exercise day in and day out. Over time, the body becomes more efficient at performing repeated activities, so you end up burning fewer calories if you continue the same exercise at the same intensity level for months.
So run or walk outside one day. For your next workout, try using a CV video. Then take an aerobics class. This is called cross-training. Cross-training doesn't mean you can never do the same workout, But for optimal fitness, you should vary your exercise routine.
But if there is only one CV exercise that you enjoy and will do consistently, then go for it. Again, it's better to stay consistent with any exercise than participate inconsistently or not at all.
Dispelling Common Exercise Myths
Will doing 100 leg lifts a day give you thinner thighs? Does muscle turn to fat when you stop exercising? With all the information available about fitness and exercise, it’s hard to separate fact from fiction. Without proper knowledge, you may hinder your exercise progress.Myth: Spot reducing
One very common exercise myth is that you can reduce fat from specific parts of your body, such as your thighs or abdomen. The truth is fat cannot be burned from specific body parts. Fat is stored throughout the body, and exercise uses fat from different areas, not necessarily the part you are working. The best way to reduce body fat is with a consistent routine of cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and stretching.Myth: "No pain, no gain"
It is a fallacy that you must exercise at a very high intensity or for long hours to get results. Research shows that even low to moderate-intensity routines have valuable health benefits. A good general recommendation is to do cardiovascular exercise three to five days a week for 20 to 45 minutes per session at 65 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate (220 minus your age), which is a level where you are working but aren't gasping for air.
To help you stay in the right range, many fitness equipment manufacturers offer cardiovascular machines with digital heart rate sensors. For example, Life Fitness treadmills, total-body elliptical Cross-Trainers, Lifecycle exercise bikes and stairclimbers have Lifepulse hand sensors and interactive heart rate Zone Training+ workouts that automatically adjust the resistance level based on your target heart rate.
Myth: Strength training will make you very muscular.
Many women fear that lifting weights will make them bulk up. Bodybuilders usually have spent hours at the gym, may use steroids, and follow strict diets to achieve their physiques. Also women have less of the hormone testosterone than men do, and testosterone is key to developing large muscles. Strength training approximately two to four times a week, doing a variety of exercises for the major muscle groups, will help lead to a lean and toned appearance.Myth: If you stop working out, muscle will turn into fat.
That assertion is simply wrong. Muscle and fat are two distinct tissues and neither can be converted to the other. If you stop exercising, muscle tissue will shrink, so you may feel flabbier, and when muscles shrink, they do not need as many calories, so your metabolism slows. With a slower metabolism, if you eat the same amount of calories, you may gain body fat.Myth: If you didn't exercise when you were younger, it's too late.
Studies have shown that it is never too late to start working out - you can reap benefits at any age. As we age, exercise can help reduce the risk of bone and muscle diseases and help enhance daily functioning. But regardless of age and medical history, consult a doctor before starting any exercise program.
First, dispel those exercise myths; then start to exercise intelligently and develop a fitter, healthier you.
The Weight Game
In today's world, Americans are constantly bombarded with abundant weight-control information as new research, "fad diets," and exercise programs proliferate. Unfortunately, this information is often confusing, complicated, and even contradictory. The resulting chaos leads many people to make serious – even life-threatening mistakes in pursuit of the ultimate goal, weight loss.
Here are some amazing statistics cited by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM):
- Americans eat 5-10% fewer calories than 20 years ago, yet weigh approximately 5 pounds more. In the U.S., 50 million men and 60 million women ages 18-79 are overweight, and one out of five children ages 5-17 is obese.
- At any given time, approximately 20 million adults in the U.S. are dieting to lose weight and another 20 million think they should.
- Americans spend more than 30 billion dollars annually on diet books, products and services.
How did Americans reach this point? Several factors can contribute to being overweight, including eating too many calories, eating a high-fat or high-sugar diet, genetics, having a sluggish metabolic rate, and leading a sedentary lifestyle.
Contrary to popular belief, obesity in this country appears to be primarily the result of a sedentary lifestyle, not overeating. Research shows that obese people don't necessarily eat more calories than their peers, they simply move less. As a result, they burn fewer calories and store more fat, which causes their fat cells to expand (adipocyte hypertrophy).
Another problem is the demand for "quick fixes" that promise immediate weight loss. Americans want things TODAY! So they try nutritionally insane plans such as fasting, the semi-starvation diet, the all-grapefruit diet, the high-protein/low-carbohydrate diet, the high-fat/low-carbohydrate diet – several of which have been shown to cause serious health problems.
The fact is that dieting just doesn't work for most people. Ninety percent of all dieters regain lost weight within one year and 99% within five years. Many are caught in the "yo-yo" syndrome in which they repeatedly lose and regain weight, and the weight-loss industry flourishes simply because no diet gimmick or special food can really achieve long-term weight control.
So what does it take? First of all, swear off diets forever. Instead, commit to a lifetime of sensible eating habits, and combine that with a smart exercise program that includes both aerobic exercise, such as walking, biking or swimming, and strength training along with stretching.
A sensible diet and exercise can achieve the rate of weight reduction recommended by experts – a weight loss rate of 1-2 pounds per week. Although this is not a rapid weight loss, it will provide you with a medically sound and effective strategy for "winning the losing game," and increase chances of keeping the weight off for good.