Weekly column by fitness expert Cashel Hayden for the Waterford News & Star, in association with Kingfisher Fitness Club
A TERM we’ve all become too familiar with in today’s fitness industry; “Cardio”… or “Cardiovascular training”, it’s slightly more scientific term. Cardio can be simply defined as any vigorous activity that increases our heart rate and respiration, which in turn raises oxygen and blood flow throughout the body while using large muscle groups in a repetitive and rhythmic nature.
Examples of such cardio methods might include running, cycling, swimming, or even a brisk walk where our heart rate rises above 50% of our max heart rate for at least 10 minutes.
‘Cardio training makes our heart and lungs work harder and helps them to become much stronger and more efficient’
We can calculate our target heart zones to make our training as safe and efficient as possible. In order to do this we simply subtract our age from 220. This will help us calculate an estimation of our maximum heart rate; i.e. the highest our heart rate should go while training.
So Joe (45 years old) will have a max heart rate of 175 beats per minute (220 – 45) . Depending on Joe’s training experience and goals he can opt for moderate intensity (50 – 70% of max heart rate; 85-122bpm) or a higher intensity (70 – 85% of max heart rate; 122 – 150bpm) for a desired time frame.
Having these target ranges will help us remain more accurate with our training and help us to know when we need to push harder or pull back if we are overreaching. We can watch these target zones through the use of fitness trackers such as fitbits and apple watches, while most gyms will also have treadmills and bikes equipped with heart rate sensors built into the handles, which can detect a pulse from our fingers and calculate a rough estimate of our given heart rate.
So what are the benefits of implementing cardio into your current training set up?
Improvements in heart and lung function
As with our muscles getting stronger as a result of resistance training, our heart and lungs are no different! Cardiovascular training makes our heart and lungs work harder and helps them to become much stronger and efficient as they must improve their capacity and develop the ability to deliver more oxygen to our muscles. Other benefits include better cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar reduction, while also helping to prevent heart disease!
Cardio is often confused by some as the only way of losing weight. However, it should be referred to as a catalyst for weight loss; to be tailored alongside an appropriate diet and an appropriate resistance training program at a minimum. Cardio is a simple way to finish off each gym session and is something small we can do daily to help burn some extra calories while also training our cardiovascular system. (15 – 30 minutes at a moderate intensity of 50-75% of our max heart rate is what I would recommend as the most sustainable method for most here!)
Our mental health and brain function
Cardio has also been found to help boost the secretion of endorphins, which are essentially euphoria simulating chemicals within the brain. Cardio is also linked to boosting the production of feel good hormones, such as dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine. The given assortment of neurochemical/ hormonal changes within the brain has been reported to boost energy levels, reduce stress and improve focus and memory.
These are just some of the many benefits from implementing a form of cardiovascular training within your lifestyle/ training regime. Choosing methods of cardio you enjoy is very important for developing this as a healthy habit. So what’s left to do? Find your heart rate zones, choose your method(s) of cardio, and make the first step! I will leave you with a quote I found earlier which might emphasise my point.
“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one” – Marcus Aurelius
Lastly, I would also like to clarify that I am not a registered dietician. All advice disclosed here is simply advisory based on my qualifications as a fitness professional and personal experience and knowledge gained working with individuals and helping them reach their goals. The advice given is not designed to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any health problem – nor is it intended to replace the advice of a physician. Always consult your physician or qualified health professional on any matters regarding your health.
I hope someone out there found some of this information useful here, just some food for thought.
For any questions in relation to this topic or training, nutrition, etc. or for coaching inquiries simply message me on my business page on Instagram @coachedbycashel_ or by email – [email protected]