Cardio is Essential
for Seniors

Cardiovascular exercise along with weight training and flexibility practice is the foundation of a well balanced fitness program.

Any activity that increases your heart rate and sustains it for a desired period can be used to meet heart and lung exercise requirements. Generally, exercise that builds healthy heart and lung function falls into one of two broad categories . . .

  • Aerobics, e.g. long slow distance training, such as jogging


  • Interval training, where short fast-tempo work is alternated with a slow, easy pace.

Ideally, endurance work should be practiced on days when you are not weight training. If it is practiced on the same day as weight training, most people find it more effective to lift weights first. However, it is possible to combine cardio and weights together by using a circuit training method.

How much is enough endurance work, and not too much? . . .

There are three factors to consider in deciding how much exercise is enough to build and maintain a strong heart and lungs — without it becoming catabolic (the breakdown or loss of muscle and other bodily tissues). Those three factors are . . .

  1. Frequency: Generally, three cardiovascular workouts per week are best for overall fitness. Less often is not enough to maintain fitness, and more than 3 times weekly may lead to catabolism.
  2. Duration: Affective workouts can be as short as 20 minutes and as long as one hour. Recent thinking is that shorter but more intense workouts — such as interval training — are more effective for fat burning and conditioning than long slow distance (aerobics).
  3. Intensity: There is no absolute measure of intensity in cardiovascular exercise. However, there are few good yardsticks. One is the “Talk Test” while jogging or running. You are at . . .
  • Aerobic Intensity if you are able to speak in short sentences without gasping. This is a common pace for jogging or long slow distance.
  • Threshold Intensity is when your effort feels comfortably hard. At this rate, if you pick up the pace even a little, you start to suffer. You have crossed over from aerobic to anaerobic exercise.
  • Sprint Intensity is moving at the fastest pace you can maintain for a designated interval (10 to 60 seconds). Often trainees move at sprint intensity followed by a recovery pace during interval training.

Here are my thoughts on various exercise options . . .

LF opinion: One common mistake is doing the exact same workout time after time. Most people get better results by cycling through their workouts using different intensity levels and, when possible, varied exercise options. Variety also reduces the chance of overuse injuries and is the antidote to boredom.

Points to remember . . .

  • Have a thorough physical examination before beginning your exercise program.
  • Use a variety of intensity levels and, if possible, types of activities.
  • Cardio is extremely important, but overdoing it is catabolic. As a senior, your goal is to build and maintain muscle, not tear it down.

Other Resources . . .

Heart Rate Monitors
This site compares features of different heart rate monitors and helps visitors choose the most appropriate heart rate monitor for their needs.

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Cardio is Essential for Seniors to Senior-Exercise-Central

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