Cardio training can build heart health

The YMCA hosts two different races each year.

We are blessed with the Irish 5/10K Run/Walk here in downtown Jefferson City in March, and the Veteran’s 5/10K Run/Walk at Last Flight Brewery in the fall.

At each event, I marvel at the abilities of our participants who travel these long distances in such impressive times. Maybe I even get a little jealous and think to myself, “How crazy are these people who do that and think it’s funny!?” They are able to achieve their success due to their mental toughness and cardiovascular endurance.

Perhaps the general population shouldn’t regard marathon runners’ ability as the standard of good health they should attain, but they should take the proper steps to train their cardiovascular system to create or maintain a good quality of life. So let’s talk cardio!

I’ll go straight to the point on the cardio topic. An individual should get 20 to 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity five to six days a week (at least 150 minutes a week).

Cardiovascular activity can be defined as any action that continuously elevates the heart above its resting rate for a specified amount of time. The minimum of 20-minute increments should be used to ensure the maximum benefits for your heart, but times can exceed this amount and still receive positive returns. Individuals should monitor their heart rate during exercise to ensure they are maintaining an elevated but safe heart rate and proceed conservatively when first starting a cardio routine.

Now that you’ve read what my side of the exercise specialist has to say, I’m now going to speak from the position of Quinton Sallin, the guy who hates cardio.

Many of us view a treadmill differently. Some people see it as the cream of the crop when it comes to exercise equipment. Some see it as the thing that takes up space in your basement or garage because it’s never been used like you thought it was when you bought it. Others are like me, who see it as a chore that I never want to do because it’s hard, nerve-wracking, and frankly I’m no good at it.

So I may never use a treadmill, but I make sure I get a fit of cardio for one very important reason. Heart health.

Cardio is thought of as the preferred weight loss activity. Yes, weight loss is achieved by burning more calories than you consume, and cardio is a good way to burn off some calories. However, I wouldn’t call it the most efficient way to do it.

Rather, what cardio effectively does is strengthen the heart and improve its ability to fuel the body while reducing the chances of heart disease. This should be your motivation for finding a cardio routine.

I also want to point out that cardiovascular activity isn’t limited to the treadmill or any other cardio equipment you might find in the fitness center. You can keep your heart rate elevated by playing a sport like pickleball or going on a hike with your friends and family. You can even get off land and into the water and swim or wade in the pool. Whatever you do, just make sure your heart rate is elevated and you’re keeping it for 20 to 30 minutes at a time.

I have now accepted that I will never be a marathon runner. I identified that I have to channel my inner golden retriever to get my cardio. That means I have to put a ball in front of me and chase it! That’s why my cardio choices are soccer and basketball because these games distract me from the stress I’m putting on my body with my loves of competition and sports.

Maybe one day I’ll go out running just for fun. That will be the same day I officially lose my mind. Just kidding runners, this is my jealousy speaking again.

Quinton Sallin is a director of wellness at the Jefferson City Area YMCA.

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