Cardio workouts are essential to your health, fitness, and well-being. The problem is that most people don't really enjoy doing cardio exercises. Personal trainer Rob Land (admittedly a cardio junkie himself) explains why you need cardiovascular exercise, how to get your cardio workouts, and how you might just come to love them as much as he does.
Rob gets to the gym in the morning at a time many people still consider "nighttime." He runs. He's on the elliptical. He bikes.
"I don't have a good day unless I exercise," he said with a shrug on a recent Friday.
On a good day, Land can cram in about four hours of cardiovascular exercise -- and still wishes he had time for six.
"Most people would say that I'm addicted to the feel-good chemicals that you get from exercise."
And while Land realizes he's not the typical American, he says the feeling he gets from a good run or a long bike ride is just the start of cardio's benefits.
The reasons to adopt a regular regimen of cardiovascular training go on and on, Land said.
"Health-wise, you're looking at lower blood pressure, increased circulation, lower cholesterol, lower triglycerides," he said.
Add on to that, decreased weight, increased sensitivity to your body's insulin and a stronger heart.
"The heart is a muscle. It needs to work out, too." By regularly working out the heart with cardiovascular exercise, the body learns to keep the resting heart rate low. Lower heart rate means less work for your heart, which means better health in the long run. "The harder your heart will have to work on a daily basis, basically, the higher risk that you're going to have complications," he said. Land said he is often asked what kind of cardio to do and how much. Land defines cardio as "any form of activity that even slightly would raise your heart rate." You've probably heard it all before: Park farther from work. Take the stairs. Anything you can do to increase your heart rate will help, Land said. "The more time you put in initially, the quicker you'll see the loss," he said. There is no physiological reason why someone new to exercise couldn't do cardio seven days a week, but he says at the absolute minimum should be 30 minutes, three times a week. "Maybe you don't have one full hour that you can dedicate to cardio a day, but you have three 20-minute sessions," he said. Perhaps instead of working out at a steady rate for an hour, you work incredibly hard for three 20-minute spurts. "That's workout efficiency at its finest there, and that's a beautiful thing," said Land.
The key, he said, is being consistent about the routine and sticking with it. "One day? That's not going to make a huge difference. Twelve weeks? It will," he said. "It's like compounding interest." Land offered five tips for people interested in starting a cardio routine: Set up some form of accountability. Land says the best thing you can do with any fitness program is get accountability, whether it's purchasing a gym membership, finding a workout partner or signing up to be part of a fitness-based club like the Kokomo Roadrunners or the Breakaway Bicycle Club, both in Kokomo, Indiana. "Put something on the line because you're going to be way more likely to make it part of a routine if you have some sort of external motivation," he said. Set goals and start small. Land said you can't expect to jump out of the gate and run a marathon. Instead, set attainable goals like working out for 20 minutes a day, five days a week. When you reach those goals, set the next one a little higher. Mommy Makeover contestant Rebecca Hampton ran her first 5K race recently and now is thinking about competing in a sprint triathlon in the summer. Schedule something competitive. Even cardio freaks like Land have to set far-away goals to keep them accountable, so he suggests finding local 5K or fun runs, bicycle races or even half marathons (the 500 Festival Mini Marathon, Ind., is a great one). "I have to have something to train for," Land said. "I schedule something six months in advance." Pick cardio that you like. If you aren't a treadmill runner and you force yourself to climb onto the treadmill day after day, your drive is going to fade -- fast -- so it's important to choose the kinds of cardio that you really enjoy. "If you do, you're that much more likely to make it a habit," he said. Many gyms even have flat-screen televisions attached to all of its cardio equipment, so you can catch the latest episode of "CSI" while you're working out. "A 30-minute cardio session goes by like that," he said, of the club's "cardio-vision." Don't compare yourself to other people. Land warns against checking out the treadmill next to you with the guy running at a 6-minute-mile pace. "Your body isn't their body, and you've not been doing what they've been doing," he said. "And vice versa." Find this article interesting? You may also want to read...Heart Healthy FoodsThe Obesity Paradox5 Common Men's Health Issues ... and How to Avoid Them