For some, exercise is a passion. For others, it seems to be a four-lettered word, or in this case an eight-letter word. But, it does not have to be a dreaded event. Exercise can be fun. It can mean more than running for hours on the treadmill or climbing the stair master until your legs feel like Jell-O. You can get in shape by doing things that you love to do. Take sports for example, when you are playing a heated game of basketball with your buddies, it does not feel like exercise, but more like just a good time between friends. A good tennis match on a Saturday afternoon can help to relieve stress just as much as a good run around the track would.
Take advantage of your geographic location. If you are lucky enough to live in a mountainous region, hiking and rock climbing can be a great form of exercise that does not have to feel like a burden. Getting out into nature and climbing a mountain filled with beautiful trees, rocks and birds can do wonders for the body and the soul. There is just something about being outdoors that makes your body feel alive. Maybe you live away from the mountains, but close to the beach. There are endless opportunities to work out there. From strolling through the sandy beaches to fun-filled beach volleyball games, you can be shaping up without being stuck in a gym. And, if you are the water-type try your hand at surfing, water skiing or any other water sport that gets you out of your beach chair and into the activities that can help your health and your figure.
Some other fun ideas to get active without the dread that you feel when you hear the word exercise are bike riding, skateboarding, swimming or dancing. Get a group of friends together, hop on your bikes and head out on a groomed city trail. Youll be riding, chatting, laughing and exercising at the same time. Or, take the kids to the local swimming pool. Not only will they love it, you will be burning calories right and left as you chase the kids around, attend underwater tea parties and teach them how to dive. Swimming is a great way to get a good work out, without feeling the pain of a good work out. Dancing is another fabulous way to sneak in some exercise. Whether you take a ballroom dancing class, enjoy tapping or just hit the clubs with your friends to dance the night away you will be sure to reap the benefits of shaping up.
Getting in shape can be fun, so do not let your negative connotation of exercise inhibit your body from the benefits of daily activity.
The most important factor for improving cardiorespiratory fitness (cardio or CR) is the intensity of the workout. Changes in CR fitness are directly related to how "hard" an aerobic exercise is performed. The more energy expended per unit of time, the greater the intensity of the exercise, the greater the effect on cardiorespiratory fitness.
You have to know how hard is "hard" to determine if an aerobic exercise like running is producing a CR training effect or if it's just burning a few calories. The heart rate during work or exercise is an excellent indicator of how much effort you are exerting. Only by keeping track of your heart rate during a workout can you be sure that the intensity is enough to improve your CR fitness level. In other words, your ability to monitor your heart rate is the single most important key to success in CR training.
Training Heart Rate (THR) = Desired Intensity of the Workout
THR is the heart rate at which you need to exercise to get a training effect. The U.S. Army fitness gurus have given us two methods to determine THR. The first method, percent maximum heart rate (%MHR) is simpler to use, while the second method, percent heart rate reserve (%HRR) is more accurate.
With this method, the THR is figured using the estimated maximal heart rate. You can estimate your maximum heart rate (MHR) by subtracting your age from 220. Thus, a 20-year-old would have an estimated maximum heart rate (MHR) of 200 beats per minute (220 - 20 = 200).
A person who is in poor shape should exercise at 70 percent of his MHR; if he is in relatively good shape, at 80 percent MHR; and, if he is in excellent shape, at 90 percent MHR.
A 20-year-old in good physical condition would have a THR of 160 beats per minute (BPM). 220 - 20 = 200 * .80 = 160 BPM.
A 30-year-old in good physical condition would have a THR of 152 beats per minute (BPM). 220 - 30 = 190 * .80 = 152 BPM.
A 40-year-old in poor physical condition would have a THR of 126 beats per minute (BPM). 220 - 40 = 180 * .70 = 126 BPM.
A more accurate way to calculate THR is the %HRR method. The range from 60 to 90 %HRR is the THR range in which people should exercise to improve their CR fitness levels. If you know your general level of CR fitness, you can determine which percentage of HRR is a good starting point for you. For example, a person in excellent physical condition could start at 85 percent of his HRR; if he is in reasonably good shape, at 70 percent HRR; and, if he is in poor shape, at 60 percent HRR.
Most CR workouts should be conducted with the heart rate between 70 to 75 percent HRR to attain, or maintain, an adequate level of fitness. A person who has reached a high level of fitness may derive more benefit from working at a higher percentage of HRR, particularly if he cannot find more than 20 minutes for CR exercise.
Exercising at any lower percentage of HRR than 60 does not give the heart, muscles, and lungs an adequate training stimulus. Exercising at more than 90 percent can be dangerous. Before anyone begins aerobic training, he should know his THR (the heart rate at which he needs to exercise to get a training effect).
The example below shows how to figure the THR by using the resting heart rate (RHR) and age to estimate heart rate reserve (HRR). A 20-year-old in reasonably good physical shape is the example.
STEP 1: Determine the MHR by subtracting your age from 220. i.e. MHR = 220 - 20 = 200.
STEP 2: Determine the resting heart rate (RHR) in beats per minute (BPM) by counting the resting pulse for 30 seconds, and multiply the count by two. A shorter period can be used, but a 30-second count is more accurate. This count should be taken while you are completely relaxed and rested. For this example, we use an RHR of 69 BPM.
STEP 3: Determine the heart rate reserve (HRR) by subtracting the RHR from the estimate MHR. i.e. HRR = 200 - 69 = 131 BPM
STEP 4: Calculate THR by (1) multiplying HRR by the relative fitness level as a percentage and (2) adding the result to the HRR. For example, our 20-year-old in good physical condition will exercise at 70% HRR.
(1) .70 * 131 = 91.7 (2) 91.7 + 69 = 160.7
In summary, a reasonably fit 20-year-old with a resting heart rate (RHR) of 69 BPM has a training heart rate (THR) goal of 161 BPM.
During aerobic exercise, the body will usually have reached a "Steady State" after five minutes of exercise, and the heart rate will have leveled off. At this time and, immediately after exercising, is when you should monitor your heart rate to see if you are within your desired THR range.
If your pulse rate is below the THR, you must exercise harder to increase your pulse to the THR. If your pulse is above the THR, you should reduce the intensity to reduce the pulse rate to the THR goal.