When people think of exercise, they most commonly think of cardio exercise. Walking, Running, Biking, Swimming are all types of cardiovascular exercise. This heart healthy exercise is critical for your health because the more active you are, the better your heart works. You’re less likely to get many of the diseases that can effect the duration and quality of your life, including coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, type II diabetes and some cancers.
Cardio exercise helps in weight loss, boosts energy levels, decreases aches and pains, improves mood, aids in digestion and improves sleep. It’s too bad we can’t just take a pill that works as good! Unfortunately, that pill just does not exist. Cardio exercise takes effort and time and there are no short cuts. Think of the cardio exercise you do as an investment in your health. This exercise, done consistently over time helps you build a strong portfolio of health.
Our bodies were made to move. And we all know that to keep our muscles in shape we need move them. Our heart is a muscle and pumps blood throughout our body. Our lungs move in sync with the heart to supply oxygen, which fuels our muscles which power movement. Cardio exercise makes them all stronger, and a stronger heart, muscles and lungs make for a more efficient and healthy body.
So how much exercise should you do? The American College of Sports Medicine is the authoritative voice in exercise science and provides the guidelines followed by medical and health care providers. They recommend the following guidelines for cardio exercise.
Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week. These minutes can be met through 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days per week or 20-60 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise three days per week. They also note that one continuous session and multiple shorter sessions of at least 10 minutes are both acceptable to accumulate desired amount of daily exercise.
Exercise intensity is an interesting discussion. One you can keep it fairly simple, or delve into some pretty complicated stuff. For this piece we’ll keep it simple… Exercise hard enough to sweat! My guess is that most of us probably don’t exercise hard enough. Casually walking your dog or playing 18 holes of golf in a cart is not cardio exercise!
If you are new to cardio exercise, start easy and gradually progress your time, frequency and duration of exercise on a regular basis. Be patient with yourself and don’t compare yourself to others. Listen to your body and if you are having pain and it does not go away with rest or modification, then don’t quit. Instead, seek the help of an orthopedic trained physical therapists. As movement experts we are often able to identify the underlying problems and help get you back on track.
Although exercise is usually beneficial for everyone, you should always consult your doctor or health care provider before beginning a cardio program, especially if you are just starting or have a history of medical issues.
Darren Marchant, PT,MSPT,OCS
FIT Physical Therapy