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Have a heart? Then remember it needs a proper workout, too

When we discuss exercise we usually refer to it as different components. Cardiovascular exercise is one component. The heart, lungs, and vascular systems are the primary aims of cardio training.

When we discuss exercise we usually refer to it as different components. Cardiovascular exercise is one component. The heart, lungs, and vascular systems are the primary aims of cardio training.

Your heart rate is a measurement of the amount of blood your heart can pump at one time and we want it to be able to pump as much blood as possible through your system with every beat, which we call a stroke. A low stroke volume is an indicator of a healthy heart. The way to lower your resting heart rate is to make it work faster during exercise.

Your heart is made of unique muscle fibers, which send electrical signals to keep the beat. When we challenge the heart muscle we enhance these signals, and create a stronger and more efficient muscle. As we work the cardio system we also challenge the rest of the body to keep up and develop more efficient means of nutrient travel and delivery, but that's a discussion for another day. Today, we concentrate on creating an effective cardiovascular training program.

Choose activities that make you breathe harder and make you sweat, which you can sustain over a period of time. To raise your heart rate walk, run, ride a bike, swim, inline skate, climb stairs or play with your kids. Just about any activity will do as long as it raises and sustains your heart rate.

The length of this activity depends on your goal. You should aim for 30-90 minutes most days of the week. Do three to 10 minute sessions instead of one long one or look at interval training. Also, mix up the activities to make one long session, keep you challenged. Add cross training to your routine.

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The last thing you need to consider about cardio work is rate of difficulty. The rate of perceived exertion scale is an easy way to measure intensity. I like a simple one to 10 scale. One is easy, 10 is too hard to continue. Work around a seven. If you have been sedentary work up to seven for 10-15 minutes per session.

Initially, you may only be able to maintain seven for a very short time. Slowly increase your time at that intensity until you are reaching your goals. This automatically creates an interval program which can be very effective when working with time constraints.

The important thing to remember is to work at your level. If a two is all you can do, start there. If you are a long time exerciser, trying to stay closer to seven longer could be your challenge. It all boils down to your health, goals and time schedule.

Now you have the basics to cardio work. Begin by finding an activity you like, one which will raise your heart rate and you can sustain for a period of time. Then make sure you are meeting your goals.

Don't forget to get your health care provider involved in your active lifestyle. Communicate with them about your new lifestyle.

Lifestyle challenge

Get three cardiovascular workouts in this week. Play with your intensity to find what is right for you and still meets your goals.

Stacy Reuille-Dupont, is owner of Superior Balance Fitness Center and SuperiorWorkout.com. She has a degree in kinesiology and is a certified personal trainer and group exercise instructor. She welcomes your comments and can be reached at www.superiorbalance.com .

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