Fall in love with cardio: How to strengthen your heart, lose fat and level up your fitness | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Having a strong and healthy heart can make you productive in your day-to-day activities, endure all the other forms of physical activities, explore the world with more enthusiasm, give more to others who need your energy, and live a longer life. You need to start moving NOW and stop wasting your time and effort doing other things that make you weaker and at risk of developing health issues. Start to love doing cardio workouts by knowing the benefits, the best techniques, and the correct progression so you won’t get overwhelmed and can consistently make this a part of your daily life forever.

The more effort you invest in training your heart with movement, the better the overall circulation will be in your body, and the more you can avoid developing cardiovascular diseases. The overall risk goes up as you age, especially if combined with other factors:

  • family history of cardiovascular diseases
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • diabetes 
  • obesity
  • use of drugs
  • alcohol drinking
  • smoking
  • unhealthy eating 
  • sedentary lifestyle

Aside from regular movement, a healthy and robust heart is achieved by; having an average weight, eating healthy, and getting enough recovery.


Make your heart strong with cardio training.

Cardiovascular exercise is essential for total health, weight control, stress management, productivity, and graceful aging. You can also get a good sweat and develop better moods with fun cardio workouts with the right intensity and duration that match your exercise style, personality, and fitness level. There are many options: brisk walking, running, circuit training, boxing, dancing, cycling, swimming, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and much more.

Improving your cardiovascular endurance enables you to sustain moderate to vigorous exercises for a certain period effectively. It makes you perform your daily activities with little effort, such as climbing stairs, walking the dog, and cleaning your house.


Adhere to recommended frequency and intensity of cardio workouts.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) exercise recommendations, you need to do at least 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity or 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity per week. 

You can even start by doing 10-15 minutes of continuous cardio exercise just by briskly walking or climbing up and down the stairs, provided that you reach a specific target heart rate (THR), which ranges between 50 to 85% of your maximum heart rate (MHR). Then progress the duration until reaching the recommended amount of cardio exercise per week to experience the benefits fully.


MHR= 220 – your age

Moderate intensity THR = between 64 and 76 % of MHR

Vigorous intensity THR = between 77 and 93 % of MHR


A 45-year-old female exerciser who joins high-intensity workout classes can reach a vigorous intensity THR (77% – 93%) of 135 beats per minute (BPM) to 163 bpm with this sample computation:


MHR-220-45 = 75 beats per minute (BPM)

77% = 175 X .77 = 135 bpm

93% = 175 X .93 = 163 bpm


You can do cardio exercise every day as long as you are maintaining or improving your fitness level, but if your body is already experiencing burnout or deteriorating (greater resting heart rate – RHR, difficulty in sleeping, developing injuries, prolonged body pains, and hormonal imbalance by experiencing irregular menstrual cycles, mood swings and weight issues), lessen the workout intensity, try light activities or take a break for a day or two and focus on recovery.


Know when to progress your training intensity.

Check your RHR to see if your aerobic capacity is improving. The normal range for adults is between 60 to 100 bpm. Athletic and super-fit individuals can even go lower than 60. You can measure this as soon as you wake up by checking your pulse for a minute. If your RHR gets lower than before, you can further improve the quality of your exercise by adding more training sessions or adjusting the intensity and duration of your current fitness program. You should level up your weekly runs by training for an upcoming 10k race, or you can progress to doing two intense indoor cycling classes a week instead of one, or use a pair of 8-pound dumbbells instead of 6 during your circuit training sessions. Aside from weight loss, feeling more robust and efficient in performing your exercises and lifestyle activities can motivate you to stay solid in your exercise habit. 

Try your best to stick to your routine because you can already feel some deterioration (higher resting heart rate and extra effort to do your usual way) if you stop an exercise for more than a week (or even less).

Remember that pushing yourself to repeatedly perform intense exercises that don’t match your current fitness level, and health status can do more harm than good. Numerous heart attacks and sudden cardiac arrests happened while doing moderate (gym or aero workouts) or vigorous intensity (sports events) exercises. That’s why it’s always essential to get a check-up if you have health issues or had (or currently having) warning signs such as shortness of breath, chest discomfort, dizziness, palpitations, and heart rate rhythm abnormalities so you can progress gradually and know when and when not to push harder.


Be efficient in burning calories and improving your metabolism.

Don’t just think about burning calories and losing weight when you move, but think of making your heart stronger to enjoy the long-term benefits of exercise. Think of it this way: you need to improve your cardiovascular endurance to be more efficient in burning calories during and even after the workout session. Your cardio fitness can significantly affect other fitness activities such as strength training and core training – making your muscles efficient in contracting over a while (muscular endurance) and withstanding a more intense session, which is the key to having a faster metabolism.


Do the best cardio strategies for fat loss and fitness performance

Have a suitable duration, intensity, and mix of your cardio activities during the week to achieve results and sustain your active lifestyle.

Numerous studies have shown the benefits of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) for fat loss and fitness performance improvements, but to sustain the habit, do this type of workout two to three times a week and devote the rest of the week to steady-state (maintaining a specific heart rate for an extended time) cardio sessions such as brisk walking, jogging, and cycling at a moderate pace. On some days, you can do other light to moderate exercises such as strength training, flexibility, and core exercises to achieve balance.

Achieve a target heart rate that improves your aerobic capacity even by doing full-body compound strength training with minimal rests in between sets, so your heart rate remains elevated during the workout session. A cardio and strength workout in one session gives you the benefits of building total body strength and improving your cardiovascular endurance, higher calorie burn, and metabolism. But if you are seriously lifting weights for a bodybuilding powerlifting competition, devote time during the week for pure strength training to lift heavier weights and allow more rest between sets.

Record your activities and progress to be more motivated and consistent with the cardio habit. You can take note of your resting heart rate (RHR-the number of times your heart beats per minute) for the day, exercise duration, and your level of exertion (subjective) during and after the workout. A fitness tracker can include all the pertinent fitness information and other measures such as calories burned, average exercise heart rate, zone duration, and aerobic capacity or VO2 max (the amount of oxygen your body uses while exercising).


Balance your activities with proper recovery and nutrition. 

Aside from consistency, balance your cardio workouts with a healthy lifestyle so you can continue to experience progress while you age gracefully. I believe that the right amount of movement (cardio, strength, flexibility, and core training) and recovery (proper sleep, balanced nutrition, and stress management) can prepare your body to effectively fight the unfavorable effects of a sedentary lifestyle with aging such as increased health issues, loss of muscle mass, accumulation of fat in the stomach, lack of mobility and mental deterioration. 

Rest and sleep: Lack of sleep can affect your stress hormones that can increase your RHR and blood pressure, leading to heart issues. Your heart will work harder during the day due to a lack of sleep. So do your best to achieve 7-9 hours of quality sleep.

Food intake: Avoid foods that are high in saturated fat (butter, animal fat, and deep-fried foods), sugar (pastries, cakes, soft drinks, and ice cream), sodium (processed meats, pizza, canned soup, and chips) and refined carbs (white bread, pasta, and rice) that can affect your body weight, visceral fat, cholesterol, blood pressure leading to heart problems. Choose heart-healthy foods such as green leafy vegetables, fruits, seeds (flax and chia seeds), nuts (walnuts, almonds, pistachios), beans and fish (salmon and tuna), and oats.

Hydration: Proper hydration is significantly vital for the heart. Dehydration can increase your RHR and blood pressure; the heart works harder because the blood that circulates your body decreases.


Happy Valentine’s Day!


Email the author at mitchfelipe@gmail.com or follow/message her on Instagram @mitchfelipemendoza


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