Why you need a regular cardio workout

If you’re invested in looking after your health and you hope to stay fit throughout your life, the single most important thing you can do is to look after your heart. A regular cardio workout makes a big contribution to keeping you in shape. It makes you feel better and gives you more energy, it also makes it easier for you to do other kinds of exercise and manage physical tasks in day to day life, and it can add as much as ten years to your life expectancy by reducing your risk of coronary illness, cancer and stroke – but how often should you work out like this and is there a risk of dong too much?

What are your goals?

How you approach working out will ultimately depend on your goals. Do you simply want to look after your health, or do you want to get fitter, perhaps in order to take on a specific physical challenge like running a marathon or starting a new job in construction? Your age and general state of health will also factor in. If you’re recovering from injury or illness or from a prolonged period of inactivity, you’ll need to exercise more frequently but not as hard as you normally would while you build up your fitness. If you’re starting to feel the decline associated with old age, you’ll have to work a little harder to hold onto your edge, but you may find that gradual muscle loss means you don’t need to do as much with your body to get your heart to this point.

Maintaining your fitness

For an average person, the World Health Organisation recommends that you do 75 minutes of high-intensity aerobic exercise or 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week, with each workout session lasting for no less than ten minutes. Most professional trainers recommend that you exercise over three to five days and then take a couple days off to allow your body to recover from any damage (which may or may not be obvious). This will enable you to maintain a good basic level of fitness. Bear in mind that you may already be doing some of this without thinking of it as exercise because, for instance, you walk to and from work or you play basketball for fun at the weekends. When calculating the minimum amount of time that you should be working out for, you can take that kind of activity into account.

Increasing your fitness

If you want to get fitter, you should be aiming to gradually increase the frequency of your cardio workouts. It’s important not to increase what you’re doing too quickly and those days off still matter. If you’ve established a weekly schedule, rather than exercising on an extra day, do an extra session on one of your usual exercise days and add another when your body has had time to get used to it. Keep these secondary sessions short to begin with and gradually expand them over time. If you’re healthy otherwise, you should gradually aim to double the number of workouts you were originally doing.

Reduce injury risk

Any program of workouts entails some risk and the last thing you want is an injury interfering with your schedule. That is why it’s important to do proper warm-ups before you start exercising and to vary the types to exercise you do so that you’re putting the strain through your body in a different way. It also helps if you make good clothing choices. Many people don’t realize how comfortable men’s compression socks can be but wearing compression socks for men or women helps you to maintain good posture and reduces the strain on your ankles. Good footwear is essential and it’s important to make sure that any equipment you’re using is properly maintained.

Too much of a good thing?

No matter how you set up your exercise schedule, it is possible to overdo it. This can become apparent because you’re getting inured more often or it can show up in subtler ways. If you’re feeling fatigued all the time or struggling to sleep properly, you may be in trouble. Some people find that they lose their appetite, that they find it hard to concentrate, that they have mood swings, that their periods stop or that they stop experiencing sexual arousal. If any of these things happen to you, reduce the amount that you’re working out for a few weeks and see if you feel better. If problems persist, ask your doctor for advice.

If you’re unable to maintain your workout regime, don’t feel bad. All this means is that you need to work out something better suited to your body and your lifestyle. When you find the right balance you’ll really see the benefits.

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