For women over fifty the benefits of doing cardio can’t be ignored. Since there are so many options, here is the best step-by-step guide to cardio for baby boomer women. Although my main form of exercise is resistance training, I always incorporate a good amount of cardio into my workout routine.
There are many benefits to cardio training. Other than the most obvious – fat burning – I incorporate cardio into my exercise routine primarily for stamina. I absolutely loathe the notion of being the tired and weak “old lady” who has problems keeping up. By maintaining a vigorous cardio program I never feel like I don’t have the energy to complete a task. I can walk briskly for long periods of time without losing my wind and actually those much younger than me often ask me to slow down when we’re out walking.
But the primary reason for doing cardio is maintaining excellent cardiovascular health. The heart is a muscle and needs to be exercised just like our abs and butts. My mom died of a heart attack at fifty-three so I have always been keen on keeping myself “heart healthy.” Exercising is just one component to the healthy heart equation but it is a crucial one.
I’m often asked at what level cardio should be done. Your workout should be vigorous enough that you can only speak a few words. If you can carry on a full conversation or are huffing so badly you can’t utter a sound, you are not working at the right level. This is often referred to as the “talk test” and is an excellent guide for baby boomer women who want to get the most benefit out of their cardio workouts.
Here is my list of cardio options for women over fifty:
WALKING: If you have never exercised, are recovering from injury, or are looking for a cardio option that can be done everywhere, walking is the best option. Whether done on a treadmill or outside, walking is the easiest form of cardio to incorporate into your daily life. You can start your program slowly and work your way up to power walking or running. I like to walk outside when the weather is beautiful but most of the time I walk on the treadmill. The benefits of walking on a treadmill include the ability to quickly change your speed and incline and to monitor your heart rate and calories burned. Additionally, the treadmill is better than pavement for those of you with bad knees.
ELLIPTICAL: Elliptical machines can tone your entire body since you can work both your upper and lower body at the same time. They are much lighter on your joints than treadmills and help to improve balance and mobility. If done at a good pace on an incline they are great for burning calories. I prefer to just work my legs when I’m on the elliptical but many women over fifty enjoy working their arms at the same time.
STEPMILL (also known as STAIRMASTER or STEPPER): If you want toned legs and butt and an overall leaner body, then the StepMill is for you. It is a great cardiovascular exercise, works all the major muscles in the legs and butt, and makes you feel like you are actually walking up an escalator . . . except it’s never ending. The StepMill is one of the best cardio machines to get your heart rate up to burn that unwanted fat. This form of cardio can be grueling so those of you new to exercise or with orthopaedic problems or injuries should proceed with caution.
STATIONARY BIKE: The stationary bike provides a gentle workout that doesn’t put too much pressure on the spine. They are often used for physical therapy after an injury or surgery because they are low impact on your body. Riding a stationary bike can help you lose weight and strengthen the major leg muscles. Always be mindful of the seat position because if it is too high or too low your knees and hips can suffer. Spinning, a much more aggressive form of bike riding is only advised for the seasoned athlete as it can cause major damage if not done correctly. Personally, I don’t think spinning is a good fit for baby boomer women.
SWIMMING: Swimming is a great form of cardio as it engages all your major muscle groups and places a strong demand on your heart and lungs. It is an excellent option for anyone who suffers from an injury or wants to protect their joints. However, if you are very overweight, buoyancy can detract from the number of calories burned so be sure to give it your all if losing weight is your goal.
ROWING: You might be surprised to see this on the list but rowing has become very popular lately as it is incorporated into most cross fit programs. Rowing burns a tremendous amount of calories and engages your entire body. Since you are in complete control of your speed you can easily change your pace thus controlling calories burned. You should definitely stay away if you have any orthopaedic problems.
Your body is designed to move and to not do so is unhealthy. I’ve given you lots of options but the decision on which exercise to do is yours. Make sure you incorporate at least 30 minutes a day if possible. Cardio not only makes you look and feel better, it is a critical element to having great health! As always, it is important to check with your physician before starting an exercise program.
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