Fitness Tips

Articles tagged as cardiovascular (view all)

Put Your Best Foot Backward

22 February, 2014

Get more from your walking workout by putting it in reverse.

Walking backward burns more calories, improves coordination, and gives your heart and lungs a better workout than hoofing it forward -- as long as you maintain your speed. The reason? It forces your leg muscles to work harder and in different ways. Just do it in a safe place (like the local high school or college track) where you won't bump into something and take a spill.

You can benefit from working out in reverse -- even if you're recovering from certain knee or leg injuries -- because it puts less stress on the knee joint compared with walking or running forward. It's not only a great way to build or maintain cardiorespiratory fitness, but it also requires your leg muscles to work in different ways -- and that takes energy (meaning it burns calories). Walking backward also forces a "concentric contraction" (shortening) of your quadriceps, a metabolically expensive movement (meaning it burns lots of calories) compared to the "eccentric" (lengthening) movement these thigh muscles make when you walk forward.

If you have problems with balance, walking in reverse is not recommended. If you think it sounds like something you'd like to try but you're concerned about falling, buy a lightweight bike helmet with a rearview mirror so you can see where you're going. Or try walking on a treadmill while holding onto the side rails; start slowly until you get the hang of it. Then, just put one foot behind the other. Step for step at the same speed, you'll get bigger benefits going backwards!

SOURCES: The metabolic transition speed between backward walking and running. Terblanche, E., Cloete, W. A., du Plessis, P. A., Sadie, J. N., Strauss, A., Unger, M., European Journal of Applied Physiology 2003 Nov;90(5-6):520-525. Epub 2003 Jul 26.

Take Your Heart for a Walk

04 February, 2014

Wondering if your walking routine is robust enough to really help your heart? Wonder no more.

Research has revealed that walking can do as much to keep you out of heart trouble as more vigorous forms of exercise, such as running, playing tennis, or doing pretty much anything that makes you break a sweat. In one study, women who walked briskly for 2.5 hours per week reaped the same heart disease protection benefits as women who did more intense exercise for the same amount of time.

When it comes to walking and heart health, speed and frequency count. Yes, strolling is better than sitting, but you get the most benefits if you really step out -- ideally for 30 minutes a day, most days. Exercise lowers heart disease risk in many ways. Walkers and other regular exercisers experience less cardiovascular aging: they have fewer heart attacks and strokes, they have lower blood pressure, and they have higher blood levels of heart-protective HDL cholesterol. And the benefits add up fast. In as little as 90 days, doctors can actually measure the age-reducing effects.

SOURCES: Walking compared with vigorous exercise for the prevention of cardiovascular events in women. Manson, J. E., Greenland, P., LaCroix, A. Z., Stefanick, M. L., Mouton, C. P., Oberman, A., Perri, M. G., Sheps, D. S., Pettinger, M. B., Siscovick, D. S., New England Journal of Medicine 2002 Sep 5;347(10):716-725.

Another Excuse Bites the Dust

18 December, 2013

Think it's too late to add years to your life? Studies say it isn't so.

Even if you're a late bloomer when it comes to exercise, don't let your couch-potato past stop you. Recent research found that sedentary women 65 and older who turned over a new leaf and got moving cut their chances of dying from cancer in half and from heart disease by a third. That's no small potatoes.

If you haven't moved a muscle in ages, put yourself on a walking program first -- aim for 30 minutes a day -- and make an appointment with your doctor for an exercise prescription. It should cover:

Type: Combines aerobic (stamina), strength, and flexibility exercise, but one type may be especially important for you.

Frequency: Lets you know how often you should exercise.

Intensity: Tells you how hard to push yourself. Basically, start at a comfortable level and work up from there.

Time: Sets a guideline for how long you should work out.

Progression: Helps you determine when to change what you're doing; set some step-by-step goals together.

Benefits: Makes clear what you can expect, and you'll understand the specific ways your routine will help your health.

After that, just follow doctor's orders.


Wait for Weights

21 September, 2012

Maximize the calorie-burning benefits of your workout by tackling cardiovascular exercise before strength training.


Slow Down to Stay Strong

19 September, 2012

Think your immune system's not tough enough? Try tai chi.  

Guilt Trip

19 September, 2012

When your guilty conscience tells you to do a couple hundred jumping jacks after downing nachos drowned in high-fat cheese and sour cream, maybe you should listen.