• Tania Cucciniello

How Much Cardio Do I Need for a Healthy Heart?

Most people will say that cardio feels like a burden, they dread starting it, and they just want it to be over-with the entire time they’re doing it. Starting an exercise with the mindset of wanting it to be over before it starts is not a recipe for success.


I always like to say: “I accept the task at hand.” By accepting what I have to do with my body, mind, and my breath, I am on a path of less resistance, which allows me to be present during my workout and to complete it without negative thoughts.


Love or hate it, cardio is necessary for a healthy body and mind. Plus, if you stay consistent, it will become easier, and you will feel happier for sticking with it over giving up.


Today we look at how much cardio we need, not for weight loss or endurance goals, but simply to maintain good circulation and a healthy heart.


How Much Cardio Do I Need for a Healthy Heart?

The recommended amount of cardio needed for a healthy heart is around 150 minutes per week in "Zone 2."


If we split that into 30-minute intervals, it equals 5 days a week of moderate aerobic activity. Moderate activity means breathing hard but still able to hold a conversation.


Vigorous aerobic activity means you are focusing solely on breathing and can’t hold a conversation. We want to reach vigorous levels when talking about losing weight.


The recommended amount of vigorous aerobic activity is 75 minutes a week. Split into 25-minute intervals, equals 3 days a week of short bursts of cardio.


Besides the cue of being able to hold a conversation or not, how do we know what level or range we’re in?


We need to calculate your heart rate.


Calculate Your Target Heart Rate

Your target heart rate is a range of numbers that determines whether you’re exercising hard enough or overexerting. Target heart rates are often seen as a chart on cardio machines, like treadmills and ellipticals. Zone 2 is a percentage between 65-85% of your maximum safe heart rate.


Your maximum rate is based on your age and subtracted from the number 220.

  • For example: a 35-year-old’s maximum heart rate is: 220- 35 = 185 beats per minute.

Once you know your maximum heart rate (in this case 185bpm), you can calculate your desired target heart rate zone by multiplying it by the ranges between 65-85%.

  • 185 x 65% = 120bpm

  • 185 x 85% = 157bpm

Therefore, the target heart rate for someone who is 35 years old needs to between 120 – 157 beats per minute. This range is enough exertion to stimulate the cardiovascular system and keep the heart muscles in good condition.


You can also use an online calculator to determine your desired target heart rate zone, such as the ones found below:


https://www.active.com/fitness/calculators/heartrate

https://www.calculatorsoup.com/calculators/health/target-heart-rate-zone-calculator.php


How to tell if you're in the zone

So how do you know if you're in your target heart rate zone?


You can always use an activity tracker in your phone or fit watch to check your heart rate. Or if you’re on a cardio machine like a treadmill, stair climber, stationary bike, or elliptical machine, use the pulse sensors on the handles regularly while you exercise.


Finally, you can always check the old-fashioned way by starting your cardio, stopping briefly, and taking your pulse for 15 seconds.


To check your pulse, place your fingertips over your carotid artery, where you feel a pulse on the side of your neck, or check your pulse at your wrist by placing two fingers on the thumb side of your wrist, over your radial artery.


Count how many beats in 15 seconds, then multiply this number by 4 to calculate your beats per minute.

  • For example: You stop exercising briefly and take your pulse for 15 seconds. You counted 32 beats. Multiply 32 x 4, to get 128bpm.

Taking the example of the 35-year-old, 128bpm is within the target heart rate range. Success!


Notes

It's important to note that these calculations are only a guide.


You may have a higher or lower maximum heart rate based on your level of athleticism.


You may have a chronic disease such as myocarditis or diabetes, in which case you will want to stay in Zone 1 cardio, which is 50%-65% of your max heart rate. It is also recommended you get clearance and approval from your doctor.


No matter what level of health you’re in, it is 100% safe to walk as your cardiovascular activity. 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week is all that’s required to keep a healthy cardiovascular system!


To learn more about the heart, check out some of my other articles linked below:


Finally, if you’re in the Montreal area and want to work with a personal trainer, I recommend reaching out to Joey at Apex Coaching. Visit https://www.apexcoaching.ca/

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