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Say YES! to Cardio

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So what is Cardio Exercise ?
Cardio, short for cardiovascular exercise, is any movement that gets your heart rate up and increases blood circulation throughout the body. There are various forms and methods of performing cardio exercise - all which will have specific benefits and guidelines.

How often am I supposed to do it?
The guidelines published by the American College of Sports Medicine suggest 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise 5 days a week, or vigorous cardio 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week. For weight loss, you might need even more (up to 60-90 minutes) depending on your diet and other activities.

Why am I doing it?
Cardio. For some it's a dreaded word and for others it's a passion they can't get enough of. Either way you look at it though, cardiovascular exercise is one of the key components that should never be left out of a fitness plan. Look at it this way...If you have a sedentary job, think about how your body feels at the end of the day. Do you have tight muscles, an aching back, feel exhausted even though you haven't done anything physical? Maybe your shoulders burn from tension and your head hurts from staring at a computer screen for too long. Now, think about how your body feels after a workout. Your muscles are warm and flexible, the blood is pumping through your body, providing oxygen and energy. You feel energized, confident, proud of yourself and ready to take on the world. It's much different, isn't it? Our bodies are made to move--not sit around all day and yet, that's exactly what we're doing.

Now, take a moment to remember all the benefits of cardio exercise:

  • Weight loss

  • Stronger heart and lungs

  • Increased bone density

  • Reduced stress

  • Reduced risk of heart disease and some types of cancer

  • Temporary relief from depression and anxiety

  • More confidence about how you feel and how you look

  • Better sleep

  • More energy

  • Boost in metabolism

I don't know about you, but all of that sounds good to me. So now that I've convinced you that cardiovascular exercise is awesome, here is some advice for you to remember:

  1. Keep It simple. If you're confused about what to do, start with the basics--you need at least 20 minutes for the body to get going, so start there. Get out your calendar, find 20 minutes of time on 3 different days and do something--walking, running, going to the gym, hike, spin--whatever you want. Make it a habit first and work on your time and intensity later.

  2. Be Patient. Part of allowing yourself time to make exercise a habit is being patient...you can't start where you want to be (which may be exercising 5 or 6 days a week), you have to start where you are and that means weight loss may be slow in coming as you get your mind and body conditioned for exercise. Make your weight loss goal long-term, then focus on the daily steps you need to take to get there.

  3. Focus on Your Body. Forget about calories, intensity and the rest of it and focus on how your body feels. Try different activities. Go slower or faster and see how your body responds. Take some time to learn about your body and you'll be able to create workouts based on your own rules instead of someone else's.

  4. Stop and Smell the Roses. If you never exercise outside, I challenge you to do so. Go out and walk, run or ride your bike. Leave your watch at home and take some time to look around, notice the scenery. If you see an interesting road...take it. Breathe deeply. Sometimes just being outside is a reminder of how wonderful it is to have a healthy, functioning body.

  5. Mix It Up. The nice thing about cardio exercise is that you can choose any activity that raises your heart rate. You don't have to do the same workout every session, nor every week. If you've been doing the same workouts, aren't you bored? Changing up your cardio is easy, so do it often and you'll discover more activities you enjoy.

  6. Appreciate Your Body. Unfortunately, I didn't learn to appreciate my body until I got an injury. When I was forced to stop exercising, I suddenly missed it. Try to learn to appreciate your body now, while it's in good working order. Just taking a few moments during your workouts to imagine what it would be like if you couldn't do what you wanted can help remind you how amazing your body is--no matter how it looks.

So now I challenge you to get up and get to work, wether it be 20 minutes of walking outside or 90 minutes of sprinting on a treadmill. Our bodies are capable of so much, lets use them!