I’m often asked what the best exercises for a variety of body parts are, and for cardiovascular workouts. In keeping with American Heart Month in February, I’ll discuss the cardiovascular workouts in this blog. The number one secret nobody will ever tell you about establishing a true healthy lifestyle for heart health, do whatever you like the most!
“But, Matt,” you say, “running is the best because it clears my head.” If running indeed clears your headspace, then run. For me, running makes me angry and I hate it, so not going to happen. The only way human beings stick to anything that requires a little work is if there is a modicum of happiness that accompanies it. This is why diets fail 90% of the time, because they are about deprivation with an ending point. When the diet is over, you go back to your old ways of eating and gain all the weight back if not more.
The best cardio exercise is the one you have some kind of enjoyment during the process. This is why people play tennis, racquetball, and adult basketball leagues, they have fun and don’t do it consciously thinking about the benefits to their heart. The heart will beat faster and pump blood to the needed muscles whether you run, cycle, play soccer, or swim, it does not know the difference. Your brain knows what limbs are moving and how to initiate nerve impulses that go with the physical activities. Your heart cannot think and therefore just does its job of beating and keeping you alive.
There are methods to maximize the time you spend doing cardiovascular training. In my blog last week, I talked about one called Tabata. The principle behind Tabata is interval training, where you do short bouts of intense movement followed by rest or slower movement. The CDC says even five-minute bouts of moderate-to-intense exercise are beneficial for the heart and brain in their 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Report found on their website. The interval training concept focuses on how quickly you can recover from an intense bout before going back to that higher intensity. Benefits of interval training:
- Can be done in shorter amounts of time than steady state
- Any type of exercise can be used (walking, running, swimming, weight training, etc)
- Doesn’t need any extra equipment
- Mimics all sports involving a cardiovascular component
Using the FITTE method is how personal trainers work with clients. So, here’s your free insight! Frequency Intensity Type Time Enjoyment. There’s that enjoyment piece again. FITTE is how you can adjust the variables for maximum efficiency and enjoyment! Interval training uses all aspects of FITTE to ensure you get the most bang for your buck, which is time spent on the activity.
Frequency is how many times per week.
Intensity is your heart rate percentage related to your maximum rate.
Time is how long are you doing the activity.
Type is whatever activity you choose to do.
Enjoyment is purely subjective based on your happiness.
Example A using these variables for a 20-minute cardio session: twice per week on the assault bike doing intervals of 1 minute all out, 2 minutes slower pace.
Example B using these variables for a 30-minute cardio and weights session: three times per week broken into four, six-minute circuits with a minute rest between circuits.
Your heart doesn’t know the difference between the examples. It loves the process and results either way. Get off that hamster wheel of a treadmill unless you really LOVE it. Adapt and adjust the variables to what gives you the most enjoyment. I guarantee you will stick with it once you practice the adjustments to help achieve your goals!