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How to Benefit from Cardio During Menopause

There are many advantages to cardiovascular exercise for menopausal women. But many women are confused about how to get started. Or maybe you feel like you don’t have the energy (or the time) to spend hours in the gym. This article will guide you through the hows and the whys of doing cardio exercise.

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What is cardio?

Cardio is the short name for any exercise that uses your cardiovascular system. It is exercise that gets your heart rate up. Cardio exercise can take on may forms. It can be light intensity like a relaxed walk or high intensity like a boot camp. Cardio can be steady state like a 30 minute run or interval training like a HIIT class.

Cardiovascular exercise is typically differentiated from strength training, but strength training can be cardio depending on how it is performed. Many household activities can also be considered cardio - gardening, housework, etc.

Why do cardio during and after menopause.

There are many reasons why you might want to add some cardiovascular exercise to your fitness routine. There are numerous benefits to cardiovascular exercise.

  • Cardio exercise helps with weight loss.
  • Weight bearing cardio exercises can improve bone density.
  • Cardio can reduce stress.
  • Cardio can reduce the risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease and diabetes.
  • Cardio can reduce the effects of hot flashes.
  • Having good cardiovascular fitness allows you to react more easily to a stressful or even dangerous situation.
  • If fitness levels are maintained, then you are likely to be independent longer

How to get the most out of cardio

To get the most out of cardio exercise, you should try for at least 150 minutes a week. If that sounds like a lot, don’t get discouraged. Any amount will have benefits.

If you are using a heart rate monitor, then monitoring your heart rate is easy. For someone of average fitness level a range of 55-70% of maximum is a good place to start.

But what is your maximum heart rate? For a long time exercise professionals have used 220-age as the calculation for maximum heart rate. It has been found that this calculation has underestimated maximum heart rate for anyone older than 40, especially women. A more accurate calculation is 208-0.7xage. Its a little more complicated, but gives a better result.

An example of this calculation for a 50 year old woman would be:
HRmax = 208 - 0.7 x 50
HRmax = 208 - 35
HRmax = 173 bpm (beats per minute)

55% of 173 is approximately 95
70% of 173 is approximately 121
85% of 173 is approximately 147

So a reasonable range would be 95 to 121 bpm.
For steady state cardio start with a duration of 10 to 15 minutes and 3 times per week. Work up to 30 to 40 minutes, 3 or 4 days per week. You may want to increase the intensity as well. 85% of heart rate maximum is as high as you will likely be able to maintain for very long.

 

What about the fat burning zone?

The fat burning zone is really a myth. Yes, your body might burn a higher percentage of calories in this zone, but the total amount of calories burned is higher when you work at a higher intensity. You will also have an increase in your metabolism for some time after exercise with a higher intensity.

Don’t forget the warmup and cool down

You should warmup with a light intensity for 5 to 10 minutes prior to your cardio session. This could be the same activity you are doing for cardio or it could be some light range of motion activities. This will get your muscles warmed up and ready to go.

The cool down should also be about 5 to 10 minutes. The longer and more intense the activity, the longer the cool down should be. The cool down can also be similar activity, but should be an intensity that will get your heart rate down again. Static stretching can also

What type of cardio should you do?

The best cardio exercise is one that you will do. I love running because you can do it almost anywhere with very little equipment, but it can be hard to get started and many women don’t like running. Brisk walking is a good alternative. Both walking and running are weight bearing so they are good for the bones, too.

If you have a gym membership, try the cardio equipment at the gym. Usually you will see equipment like treadmills, exercise bikes, elliptical machines, stair climbers, steppers and rowing machines. Ask one of the staff how to use the equipment if you are not sure. Or try an exercise class for some cardio. Exercise classes are also a great way to meet other people and get you motivated.

You can also find cardio workouts on the internet. It may take a bit of searching to find one you like that meets your abilities.

Remember that I said any type of exercise that gets your heart rate up is cardio. If you prefer resistance training, or are pressed for time a good option is to do your resistance training as a circuit, with little rest between each set of exercise, or with a short cardio set between each exercise. For example: squat, pushup, lunge, row, shoulder press or squat, jog on the spot, pushup, jumping jack, lunge, high knees, row…

I hope this inspires you to get started with some cardio exercise. Keeping track of what you are doing will help you to see progress and keep you motivated. Download this free Cardio Exercise Log to track your exercise.

References:

http://www.besthealthmag.ca/best-you/fitness/what-is-cardio-and-why-do-we-need-it/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0735109700010548

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