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Get Going With Heart-Healthy Cardio Exercise

  • Category: Living Well, Weight Loss
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Dr. Robert Matheney, Heart and Vascular Care
Get Going With Heart-Healthy Cardio Exercise

If you’re on a mission to get fit this year, you’ve got to get that heart pumping! One of the best ways to achieve this goal is through a little something called cardio.

Cardiovascular exercise (we’ll call it cardio for short) includes any type of exercise that gets your heart rate thumping along at a moderate-or-more intensity level. It’s generally fast-paced and high-energy: think hitting the treadmill vs. taking a yoga class.

Not only is a regular cardio sesh a great way to stay in shape, it’s also important for maintaining our overall heart health. We spoke to Dr. Robert Matheny, Heart & Vascular Care provider, about what cardio exercise entails, and how you can get started safely, while having fun along the way. Get ready to jump—or run, or swim, or bike—on in!

What is cardio?

Cardiovascular exercise is any form of exercise that elevates your heart rate and keeps it that way for an extended period. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a minimum of 20-30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise at least 5 days per week. This can mean anything from short 10-minute intervals with rest in between, to longer sustained activities such as jogging or riding a bike.

The most important thing is to keep your heart rate (safely) elevated throughout the duration of your workout. For moderate-intensity exercise, the minimum recommended target heart range is 55-60% of your maximum heart rate, but can include anything up to 85%. Anything above 85% of your maximum heart rate is typically labeled as high-intensity exercise—but you don’t have to push yourself that hard to get the benefits of a cardio workout.

Woman checking her device

You can use a fitness device to track your heart rate, or you can go by feel. How hard the exercise feels for you is a reliable indicator of your heart rate. If the exercise feels “moderate” to you (vs. feeling easy) you can be confident you are hitting your heart-rate goals.

Some common forms of cardio exercise include walking, jogging, biking, swimming, or using any of the machines at your local gym. Remember to always consult your physician prior to beginning a new exercise routine, and exercise according to your own rate of perceived exertion. Find a Heart & Vascular Care provider here.

Our favorite cardio exercises

The best cardio exercise for you is the one you enjoy! That will keep you motivated and having fun, while reaping the health and heart benefits of regular exercise. If you need more advice and inspiration, here are some of Dr. Matheney’s top recommended cardio exercises to try:

Elderly man and woman jogging

​1. Treadmill walking/jogging: We recommend setting the treadmill for a minimum 1% incline in order to better approximate outdoor walking. Treadmills typically have a heart rate monitor feature, you can use it in order to assess how hard you are working your heart. Also, the treadmill is one of the few places you can pretend to climb a hill here in South Louisiana!

Woman using treadmill

2. Stepmill/Stair climber: One of the most important principles of fitness training is specificity. That means training your body to do the activities that you want it to be able to do. Everyone wants to be able to climb stairs with ease, so utilize this machine accordingly.

man swimming

3. Swimming: Swimming is a great way to mix up your workout routine and minimize continued stress on the body, while getting a great full-body cardio workout. When your body feels like it wants a break from the stresses of land-based work, go for a swim and try and keep your heart rate elevated.

Woman exercising

4. Body Weight Training: Utilizing your own body weight is one of the smartest ways to train. Be creative and flexible here, but know you almost can’t go wrong as long as you keep your heart rate elevated for the duration. We recommend beginners start by picking a series of exercises and performing each one for 30 seconds. Try to get to at least 5 minutes before you take a break. Try to go from a challenging exercise, like burpees to an easier exercise, such as arm circles, in order to make the circuit easier to get started.

Keep your heart in tip-top shape by scheduling a visit with our Heart & Vascular providers. Call us at 504.349.6810 or click here to learn about Heart & Vascular Care at West Jefferson Medical Center.

More: Getting to the heart of the problem

About Dr. Robert Matheney

Dr. Robert MatheneyDr. Matheney specializes in Heart & Vascular Care. His specialties include interventional cardiology and peripheral percutaneous interventions, including coronary and renal angiography, angioplasty, stenting, atherectomy, lower extremity angioplasty, placement of permanent pacemakers and cardiac defibrillators. He is recognized by his peers for his expertise in clinical cardiology. He is active in both the state and local chapters of the American Heart Association. He is also active in educating students and residents. Learn more about Dr. Matheney here.