High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is very popular right now, and for good reason. You can burn a lot of calories in a short period of time and intervals will improve your cardiovascular fitness. However, the intensity and fitness level required for these kind of workouts can make them unsuitable for some people. The same goes for strength training, which is great for improving your overall fitness level and staving off some of the effects of aging. Moreover, a regular yoga or pilates practice is essential for improving and maintaining your mobility. In short, a variety of activities are what I believe deliver life-long fitness.
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Of course, equally important to your overall health is cardiovascular fitness, often referred to as aerobic fitness. Aerobic exercise involves the use of large muscles groups moving for long periods of time (but not as long as you think). Running, walking, swimming and biking are all aerobic activities, which increase the heart rate and the body’s usage of oxygen. This is important because the body uses oxygen in the energy-generating process (read: calorie burning). Also, aerobic exercise strengthens the efficiency of your heart.
What does that mean? When you exercise aerobically on a regular basis (20 minutes, three times a week is a good place to start) your heart becomes stronger and pumps more blood with each beat. This means your heart doesn’t have to beat as fast to move the same volume of blood. So, your heart works less and will last longer. As your heart works more efficiently, it can deliver more oxygen-rich blood to the muscles, which also become better at using oxygen. With more oxygen arriving in the muscles, the powerhouses of the cells, or mitochondria, increase in number and activity. The mitochondria use oxygen to burn fat and carbohydrates for fuel. As their activity increases, so does your endurance.
For a minimum of 30 minutes raise your heart rate to between 65 and 85 percent of your estimated max heart rate. Use this formula to calculate those numbers:
220 minus your age = your max heart rate
Multiply your max heart rate by .65 and .85 to find your training zone.