How to Improve Cardio
Fitness


This page addresses the best way to improve cardio fitness. You will get maximum benefit from your cardiovascular exercises when you practise rhythmic or interval training. This means, increasing your heart rate to a pre-determined level above your normal heart rate at rest, holding at that level for a period of time and then allowing it to decrease for a set time period before repeating the cycle again. You will also be able to request your free exercise program on this page.


This section is not about the type of equipment available to improve cardio fitness but to share some tips which will enable you to get the best out of your cardiovascular exercises routine, whether you are exercising without equipment or using one of the many exercise machines available.


How to improve cardio fitness with cardiovascular exercises - www.how-to-be-organized.com


Please read our General Disclaimer prior to the start of any new exercise program.

Once you have been cleared fit to exercise, start with moderate exercise and slowly increase the exercise level. With cardiovascular exercises, it is very important that you do not exceed the recommended heart rate for each of the exercise sets.

I have put together an exercise program, in an excel spreadsheet, which automatically calculates your maximum heart rate as well as the recommended heart rate for each of the exercise sets. All you need to do is to enter your age. The graphic below is a segment from the beginner level of the cardiovascular exercise program which I will use as an example.

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How to improve cardio fitness with cardiovascular exercises - CLICK FOR YOUR FREE EXERCISE PROGRAM


Let’s start by calculating the maximum heart rate for your age.




Maximum Heart Rate (MaxHR)

Simply enter your age into your free exercise program spreadsheet and it will calculate your maximum heart rate (MaxHR), using the following formula:

MaxHR = 208 – (0.7 x your age)

Whether you are exercising without equipment or using a cardiovascular exercise machine such as a stationary bike, rowing machine, treadmill or elliptical, you will need to have a heart rate monitor and a timer. Most of the current machines have both of those built in.

I use a stationary bike for my cardiovascular exercises which has a built in heart rate monitor as well as a freely programmable user setting allowing me to input the data from the spreadsheet.

I have put together three difficulty levels to improve cardio fitness, and will describe each in detail below.


1. Cardio Beginner Level

The first tab at the bottom of the spreadsheet containing your free exercise program is the beginner level which will place you on the path to improve cardio fitness.

For this example, we will assume that you are 40. Naturally when it comes to your actual exercise routine you will enter your own age.

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Enter 40 in the cell next to “Your Age”. The maximum heart (MaxHR) rate will calculate and display 180. The target heart rates (HR) for both the “Workout” as well as the “Recover” stages for each “Set” will indicate 126 and 99 respectively.

The worksheet should look like the example above.

  • Warm up for 3 minutes.
    Start with light exercise to warm yourself up. If you are using a machine such as a stationary bike, rowing machine, treadmill or elliptical, start at a low level of resistance. If you are exercising without equipment, start at a slow pace.
  • Set 1 - Workout for 2 minutes (at 70% of your MaxHR).
    Increase the resistance in steps until your heart rate is at 126 beats per minute (bpm). It could take up to a minute to reach the bpm. You may need to re-adjust the resistance to maintain 126 bpm. After one or two sets you will have it down pat. If you have a user programmable setting, store it once you have worked it out. If not, make a note of the resistance setting that you have set. If you are exercising without equipment, then pick up and drop the pace to achieve the same result.
  • Set 1 - Recover for 2 minutes (at 55% of your MaxHR).
    Decrease the resistance gradually until your heart rate has dropped to 99 bpm. As you get fitter, this drop will happen quicker. Again play with the resistance levels until you have it mastered and if you are exercising without equipment drop the pace and then maintain 99 bpm.
  • Continue with Set 2 - Workout for 2 minutes, then follow with Set 2 - Recover for 2 minutes until you have completed Set 6 - Recover.
  • Cool Down for 3 minutes.
    Continue with light exercise to cool down. If you are using a machine such as a stationary bike, rowing machine, treadmill or elliptical, select the same low level of resistance as you did for your warm up. If you are exercising without equipment, drop the pace to the level of your warm up.

As you improve cardio fitness, the time taken for your heart to return to the normal heart rate at rest, will get shorter and shorter. In addition, you will have to increase the resistance to get to the desired heart rate levels (HR). When this starts happening, it means that you are getting fitter.

Take some time to stretch your muscles.

I stretch by doing six repetitions of rites three, four and five out of the 5 Tibetan Rites, which I explained in the previous subsection. I follow the stretching with a set of breathing exercises as described in Breath for Life.

I suggest that you start exercising every second day for the first two weeks. Increase it to exercising for two consecutive days with a rest day in between.

After four weeks of exercising regularly, move on to the cardio intermediate level, which is the second tab of your free exercise program spreadsheet.

Naturally, you will be exercising with the workout and recovery levels for your own age.




2. Cardio Intermediate Level

Move up to this level only if you have been exercising regularly for four weeks as I have indicated above. You can also choose to continue at the beginner level.

The cardio intermediate level increases the number of exercise sets from six to eight, and the warm up and cool down period from three to four minutes.

Follow the same procedure as indicated for the cardio beginner level.

After two weeks of cardio intermediate level, which means six weeks after your first started exercising, increase the frequency to three consecutive days of exercise with a rest day in between.

For most people, this level is adequate to improve cardio fitness.

If you find that this is not sufficiently challenging, then move on to the advanced level.


3. Cardio Advanced Level

This is the third tab of your free exercise program spreadsheet.

Move up to this level only if you have been exercising regularly for at least eight weeks following the recommendations for the beginner and intermediate levels as described above.

The cardio intermediate level decreases the number of exercise sets back to six but increases the percentage of your maximum heart rate from 70% to 85% for the workout portion of each set. 

The length of the workout portion is reduced to 1 minute and both the warm up and cool down periods are increased to 5 minutes each.

This page is part of my section on The Benefits to Exercise.

In the next subsection I discuss aerobic exercises. Naturally, if you are doing these cardiovascular exercises to improve cardio fitness, you are already doing the aerobic exercise component.


Go from How to Improve Cardio Fitness to
The Best Aerobic Exercise

Go from How to Improve Cardio Fitness to
The Benefits to Exercise