Alex Simotas, MD

Hospital for Special Surgery
Board Certified Physiatrist
Specializing In Spine & Sports Medicine

Home > Wellness & Exercise > Exercise Facts > Fitness & Cardiovascular Exercise

Fitness & Cardiovascular Exercise

HOW DOES CARDIOVASCULAR EXERCISE HELP YOUR MUSCLES?

A large portion of your exercise should be cardiovascular exercise training:

  • The “core” and spine muscles appear to be important in any activity performance and important in reducing back pain.
  • The spine is has mostly has long duration muscle fibers. These are muscles devoted to endurance function and will be strengthened during endurance training.
  • There is evidence that fitness correlates with prevention of back pain.

HOW DO I MEASURE CARDIOVASCULAR ENDURANCE?

Measuring the intensity of cardiovascular activities is an important way to assess both the effectiveness and the improvement of your fitness. Heart rate is the easiest and most reliable measure of exertion.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that exercise at an intensity level of between 64-94% of your maximal heart rate. Try to maintain this heart rate for periods of 20 to 30 minute.

Recommended strategy: three times a week to improve health and endurance.

The following equation is used to determine individual maximal heart rate:

  • Maximal HR = 220 – age
  • Using the maximal heart rate an individual can determine his or heart ideal training range by multiplying maximal heart rate and target percentage.
  • Target HR (lower) = [maximal HR] x 0.64
  • Target HR (upper) = [maximal HR] x 0.94

For example: a 35 year-old individual with an estimated heart rate of 185 (220 – 35 = 185) would want to exercise with the range of 118 – 174 beats per minute.

HOW MUCH EXERCISE SHOULD I DO?

An initial goal would be to exercise until you reach your target heart rate and maintain it at this level for 20 to 30 minutes a day three times a week.

HOW DO WE MEASURE OUR HEART RATE?

There are several methods for measuring your heart rate. Finding your pulse on your neck or on your wrist is an effective way to count your heart beats. After you find your pulse you can watch a clock for 15 seconds as you count the number of times that your heart beats. When you determine the number of beats in 15 seconds you can multiply this number by 4 to establish your heart rate, or beats per minute.

You can also purchase a heart rate monitor to wear while exercising to ensure that you are training within the target range. This is highly recommended. A heart monitor can be purchased at any sporting goods store. This will measure your heart rate and accurately calculate calorie expenditure.