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Using Cardio Exercise for Good Health

If your goal is to feel better and live a longer and healthier life, a little aerobic exercise goes a remarkably long way. The people in the bottom 20 percent of the population, fitness-wise, are 65 percent more likely to die from heart attack, stroke, diabetes, or cancer than the highly fit people in the top 20 percent. However, when those couch potatoes move up just one notch on the fitness scale, by simply adding a daily 30-minute walk, they’re only 10 percent more likely to die from these causes than super-fit people.

If you have no designs on hiking the Appalachian Trail or losing 50 pounds, you may want to know the minimum amount of exercise that can make a difference in your health. Here are some answers.

How often you need to do cardio for good health

Research suggests that you can lower your risk of heart disease just by walking for 20 minutes three times a week. This typically is enough exercise to increase your energy level and stamina, too, although not enough to cause much in the way of fat loss.

If you’re a beginning exerciser or returning to an exercise program, try to work out five or six days rather than three days a week (keeping the workouts short) so you get in the habit of exercising.

How long your workouts should last for good health

If your goal is to improve your health, you do not need to do all your exercise in big chunks. Nowhere is it written that in order to benefit from aerobic exercise, you need to do it for 30 consecutive minutes. Studies show that doing three ten-minute bouts of aerobic exercise has nearly the same health benefits as doing one half-hour session.

How hard you need to push for good health

If you’re simply looking to feel better and improve the quality of your everyday life, being active is the key, even if you don’t always reach your target heart-rate zone. However, to realize the maximum health benefits — significantly lowering your heart-disease risk, for example — it’s wise to work out in your target zone the majority of the time. Plus, even if you have modest goals, you may want to crank up your intensity just to keep things interesting.

Realize that, when you’re a beginner, any exercise you do is high-intensity exercise. As you get more fit, you need to adapt your routine to match your increasing strength and lung power.

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