If you want to improve your health and look and feel great at the same time, try engaging in some aerobic exercise. Aerobic activity is defined as exercise that raises your heart rate to an optimal level for your age and maintains this rate for a minimum of 20 minutes at a time. Aerobic activity can be anything from walking briskly, dancing, and jumping rope to running or participating in an aerobics exercise class in a gym.
The benefits of aerobic exercise are numerous. These include strengthening the heart and lungs, improving your ability to use oxygen, reducing your resting heart rate (which is your pulse when you are not exercising) and lowering your blood pressure. Other positive changes you will notice over time include an improvement in energy and endurance levels, a faster metabolism, and weight loss or maintenance. In addition, engaging in a regular aerobic activity can help you to reduce stress and improve your mood, too. If you want to begin an aerobic exercise routine, it is important to understand how to calculate your target heart rate so you can be sure you are working your body effectively and getting the full cardiovascular benefits.
Determining Your Target Heart Rate:
To calculate your target heart rate, follow these steps.
- Start by calculating your maximum heart rate. Subtract your current age from the number 220. So if you are 30 years old, your maximum heart rate would be 190.
Your target heart rate depends on your age and fitness goals, but generally is between 60 to 80 percent of this maximum number. For a 30 year old, your target rate would be between 114 and 152.
The next step is to determine if you are working within your target range. You do this by checking your pulse during the workout. Here is how to accomplish this:
- Stop exercising briefly and check your pulse either on your neck or your wrist. While you check, continue moving your legs or walking to keep your heart rate elevated.
If you choose your neck, place the tips of your second and third fingers against the blood vessel to either side of your Adam's apple. If you prefer to use your wrist, put the same fingers on the inside of your wrist.
In either spot, feel for the throbbing of your pulse and use a clock or watch with a second hand to count how many pulses you feel for a 10-second period.
Multiply that number by six. The result will be your working heart rate or pulse for one minute.
Now compare this number to your targeted range. At first, work your heart rate up to 60 percent of the maximum, and gradually elevate it to about 80 percent over time.
How to Get Started:
- Exercise takes a real commitment. Select an aerobic activity - or several activities - that you enjoy and be prepared to stick to the exercise for the long haul.
Some possible choices include brisk walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, rope-jumping, rowing, cross-country skiing and playing racquetball.
Determine your exercise goals. Are you simply looking to get in shape and build up your endurance, or do you have other goals, such as training for a marathon?
Remember to build up gradually. If you do too much too soon, you may burn out and lose your momentum. Start slowly and work your way up to your full potential.
Always begin your workout with a warm-up period of at least five to 10 minutes. You might try walking, slow jogging, or arm or leg lifts.
Remember to always cool down for five to 10 minutes afterward, letting your heart rate gradually return to normal. You could do slow walking or low-intensity exercise.
Plan to engage in at least three 20-minute sessions of aerobic exercise a week.
Results take time. Don't expect to see or feel a difference over night, but realize that you will gain many benefits over time if you make aerobic exercise a regular part of your life.
Don't feel like you have to limit yourself to one activity. You can engage in a variety of different approaches to get results, as long as they allow you to reach your target heart rate.
Select comfortable clothes that will allow you to move well, and pick supportive footwear appropriate for the activity.