You define cardio as deep breathing during yoga stretches. You work up a sweat in Bikram class. You're still not losing weight. "You need aerobic exercise for weight loss and cardiovascular health" say your friends. You joined them on their 7-mile per hour run, lasted about a quarter of a mile, and went back to Bikram. Your friends correctly assessed your fitness needs, but beginners need a progressive approach to cardio exercise. If any of said friends are considering careers as personal trainers, advise them against quitting their day jobs.
Walk it Off
Starting a new type of workout is like falling in love. It's always best at the beginning. In the start of an affair, the excitement associated with even the smallest romantic gesture raises your pulse rate. The same applies to aerobic exercise. If you drive or take the bus all the way to work and ride the elevator up to your office, try parking farther away or getting off the bus one stop early. Substitute the stairs for the elevator. These minimal changes will trigger obvious results, such as weight loss and/or increased endurance. Gradually build up to 30 minutes of brisk walking. Your heart, your muscles and your bones will love you for it.
Aerobic exercise seems to require a lot of math. For example, to find your maximal heart rate, subtract your age from the number 220. Your target heart rate is 60 to 90 percent of that number. Didn't you come to the gym to escape the numbers? Free your mind and relegate the number crunching to the high-tech equipment. Many machines even have pulse-taking sensors on the handles. Stay within 60 to 75 percent of your maximal heart rate when first starting out. While they might not be 100 percent accurate all the time, the sensors offer an alternative to the overly perky and costly personal trainer. The different types of machines provide a series of graded workouts. Most people find the recumbent bicycle the easiest, but it's really a matter of personal preference. Some gyms have video screens and headphone hook-ups for your cardio exercise entertainment.
Circuits Beat Boredom
It was the boredom that killed your best intentions. Even the TV monitors could not make up for the monotony of the stationary bicycle, and going nowhere fast is not your idea of a good time. Circuit training intersperses one- to three-minute strength exercises with one to three minutes of cardio activity. The short-duration aerobic segments provide a perfect solution for beginners who have not yet built up their aerobic endurance.
Stay Cool in the Pool
If you can't stand the heat, and if your bones hate impact, get in the pool. During an aqua aerobics workout, the buoyancy properties of water triumph over the forces of gravity, creating a more challenging workout for your muscles while minimizing stress on your bones and joints. Aqua aerobic classes feature simple aerobic moves, choreographed to music and designed to maximize the benefits of the water's buoyancy. Some classes use special types of aqua aerobic equipment, such as belts that allow you to jog in deep water without your feet touching the ground.
In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.