Simple exercises for the heart

A cardio work-out is a physical activity that ups your heart rate, helps lungs expand with good effect, and burns stored fat in the body

ExercisingHeart diseases are on the rise in India. It is important to take proactive steps to keep your heart in a fit state. Cardio exercises are a perfect means to keep your heart healthy.

Cardio exercises make your heart pump more blood to the organs, and the lungs work hard to bring in more oxygen. Gradually, you will find that your system gets better conditioned - what with your heart being able to do the same amount of work with less effort.

All you need to do is make sure you are burning fat.

While working-out aerobically the body burns fat, provided you are in the Target Heart Rate Zone.

Max Target Heart Rate = 220 – your age [in years]

Target Heart Rate Zone [beats per minute] = 65-85 per cent of Max Target Heart Rate. So, assuming your age is 30 years, your target heart rate zone is 123-161 beats per minute.

You must work at this heart rate for a minimum of 20 minutes to be able to burn fat. One easy way of doing is using heart-rate monitors that are available at your local sports store.

There are several exercises that fall into the cardio work-out category. You may choose any of them depending on your fitness level, and the goal you have for your body.

Exercises

Walking

Walking is one of the simplest and easiest of exercises that requires nothing but a pair of exercise shoes, T-shirt, and track pants. Whenever you find the time, you can walk in a park, or on a treadmill, or on your terrace. Brisk walking will help you burn fat and make your heart and lungs stronger, without the use of any special skill. If you find yourself getting bored, take a friend, or your spouse, or your dog along - but, make sure you concentrate on walking rather than talking.

Caution: If you have a knee problem/pain, start walking only after consulting your physician, or physiotherapist.

Cycling

You can cycle outdoors, or indoors, by using a stationary cycle. The biggest advantage of stationary biking is these bikes are quite compact and light. They also do not require much floor space. You can place your cycle in front of your TV, and peddle and burn calories! Cycling is great for people with weak knees and people who are overweight, or those trying to shed kilos. Not only will you end up burning fat with cycling, you will also find your leg muscles becoming stronger and better-shaped.

Caution: Do not slouch while cycling, keep an eye on your speed, or you will find that on days that you are bored, or lazy, you may be cycling too slowly. This will not help you burn fat.

Swimming

Want to beat the heat, and look great at the same time? Take a swimming class. Swimming is a great way to burn fat while strengthening your cardiovascular system and toning your muscles. Besides swimming there are several activities that can help you burn fat and have fun at the same time — water polo, or water aerobics. Since these are group-sports, try to keep yourself motivated, without thinking of them as too much of a chore.

Caution: If you have asthma, or bone or joint pain, consult your physician/therapist before you start your swimming exercises.

Kickboxing

This combines elements of boxing, martial arts, and aerobics to provide physical [cardiac] conditioning and toning. However, if you have been a couch potato for a while, and decide suddenly to get fit, this activity is not for you.

Kickboxing is a high-intensity work-out requiring a certain degree of strength and flexibility. A novice might just end up with a muscle pull, or tear. The best thing to do would be to attend a beginners' class and see if you can cope. If not, start with a lighter activity like walking, or swimming. You may slowly graduate to this sport.

Caution: Avoid kickboxing if you have weak knees, or weak back.

Take the talk test

The important thing is: no matter what cardiovascular activity you choose, ascertain if you are working hard enough to "talk test," or see if you are comfortably breathless. If you find it difficult to say a few words, you are probably working-out anaerobically,

If you are talking all the way through your work-out, you are not working hard enough. For a good indication of optimal aerobic exercise you should be able to say a few words, catch up on your breath, and then carry on talking.

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Samreedhi Goel
Samreedhi Goel is a Nutritionist and Personal trainer & fitness columnist who has been a part of the fitness industry since 1999. She has helped hundreds of people shape up, lose weight, achieve the body of their dreams, become fitter and healthier individuals and overcome chronic health problems through her fitness studio Size Wise.Her fitness columns and interviews appear on a regular basis in prestigious publications like Complete Wellbeing, Sunday Midday, Rediff.com, Seventeen India, Mumbai.