Cardiovascular activity is one of the major changes that take place in aging adults. The decrease in cardiac output of the heart causes a decline in the amount of oxygen rich blood that reaches the muscles in a single pump; this is also called stroke volume. This also reduces muscular ability and can often lead to a decrease in bone density. Much of this decline, however, is due to living a sedentary lifestyle and is not a factor of aging. Studies have shown that gaining or maintaining an active lifestyle and fitness routine can slow down and even reverse the signs of aging.
The difficult part of any cardiovascular exercise is finding your proper intensity level. Generally speaking, one should exert to the point of not being able to speak with a normal pattern or sing a song, but not to the extent of struggling to convey a short phrase. This is a great indicator for cardio training, but does not necessarily apply to resistance training. Resistance training intensity is usually measured within the days following a training day. While some muscle soreness is to be expected, intense muscle pain or any joint pain is not normal.
The two main training intensities to improve cardiopulmonary function are moderate and high intensity. Maximum heart rate (MHR) is a base line used to determine the intensity an individual should use as a starting point. While other factors, such as activity level, medication, and medical conditions, can play a part in this as well, it is widely accepted that MHR can be found by the equation 220 – age. This means that a 20 year old individual will have a MHR of 200.
Moderate activity is classified as 55% to 69% of MHR and should be performed for 30 to 60 minutes a day, at least 3 days a week. High intensity exercise is classified as 70% to 89% of MHR. These can be performed for 15 minutes a day 3 days a week. This can be a good tool to use depending on the fluctuation of free time from day to day. Maybe someone has plenty of free time on Monday and Friday, but Wednesday is pretty busy. They could do a moderate activity on Monday and Friday and a shorter high intensity workout on Wednesday. They would still meet their requirements for the week.
A light warm-up should be performed prior to physical activity to lubricate the joints and slowly increase heart rate to prepare for exercise. Immediately follow the workout, take roughly 5 minutes to cool down. Walk around slowly or stand and stretch to give your heart time to slowly decrease back to a resting speed before completely stopping or sitting. This helps the heart recover as well as lowering body temperature and distributing blood out of the muscles and back into the organs for filtering and other metabolic processes.
As always, consult your doctor or cardiologist before beginning any exercise regimen.
ACSM Certified Fitness Professional