One of the ironies of building up the body is that when people are unfit, exercise is simple: practically any movement helps. As a person builds up muscle, every physical action can be carried out more easily, so it gets harder and harder to provide a proper workout for the heart and lungs. Most people don’t have the time to run for several hours a day, so what can be done? The key is to choose exercises carefully, monitor response, and introduce new challenges.
An hour-long workout using only the legs or only the arms will provide roughly the same challenge to the cardiovascular system as a half-hour workout using the whole body, so choosing better exercises to fill that hourly workout slot can effectively double the gain. Swimming is a fantastic choice, using every muscle in the body, while using a cross trainer generates a similar effect.
Unsupported running can also be good because core muscles need to be active to support the upper body, but it only works if it’s actually hard, so running on flat ground should be replaced by running up hills (stairs should be avoided as they can damage the knees), and treadmills need to be placed on a challenging setting.
Once exercise becomes easy, it can be hard to maintain the drive that made building up appealing in the first place. In light of the benefits of cardio fitness, there is never a time when it’s okay to be lazy. Exercise must always be a challenge.
When pushing limits, it’s important to keep track of the body’s responses in order to stay safe. This also ensures that exercise remains effective. The maximum heart rate for any individual can be established by taking the number 220 and subtracting that person’s age. Cardio exercise should then raise the heart rate to around 70% of this and keep it there for the 20 to 30 minutes of the workout.
If this doesn’t seem to be achieving anything, it’s possible to push it up to 80%, but anyone with a family history of heart problems should consult a doctor before taking this step. Heart monitors are fairly cheap to buy and easy to use while exercising. Some gym machines even have them built in.
No matter how good they are, nobody pushes limits like this without occasional difficulties. Anyone who has had breathing difficulties should have an inhaler nearby just in case. Some medicines conveniently have multiple uses such as essential oils that can clear sinuses and help induce a feeling of calm at the point where it’s important to bring heart and respiration rates down again.
Not everybody approaches such exercise with the same goals, but lengthy workouts are always a good idea for those seeking to burn fat, while those keen to exhibit muscle mass at its best should try shorter workouts like HIIT training, to improve definition without losing muscle.