Karl Henry - Spring into spring and get your heart pumping
'Cardiovascular exercise is so varied, you are sure to love it. Try running, cycling, swimming, walking - even sex'
Just three weeks to go on our real resolutions plan and now you have well and truly hit your stride. You have put the work into your planning, organised your weekly food shop and gradually boosted your activity levels, so well done to you.
This week I want to delve a little deeper into the exercise component crucial to any attempt to get healthier. There are several different types of fitness: muscular, aerobic and flexibility, to name a few.This week, I want to look at the cardiovascular element.
Basically, cardiovascular exercise affects your heart and lungs. Your heart is a muscle, and, like your other muscles, it will be able to work better when it's in shape. Proper exercise helps to strengthen your heart, making it a more efficient engine for your body, and giving you more energy.
So this form of exercise is an essential aspect of any health plan. Any exercise that gets the heart rate up and increases your breathing rate can be classified as cardiovascular exercise: walking, running, cycling, swimming, surfing and even sex all count. That's one of the great things about it: it's so varied that you are sure to find something you love.
The most important element - apart from the type of exercise - is the effort level you are putting into it.
Get the most from cardio
To get the benefits, you have to work hard enough and you can do this in a couple of ways: 1. Steady state exercise, ensuring you are getting out of breath but still able to hold a conversation or count to 10. 2. High intensity interval training (HIIT), where you are working at two different speeds or paces, one easy and one hard. When working hard, you should be getting fully out of breath.
Both are incredibly beneficial, so ensure you are doing either one to get the most from your sessions!
It's important to note that if you have a heart condition, speak to a healthcare professional about what exercises you can engage in and whether you require supervision during physical activity. They can also help you choose what type of physical activity is appropriate for your current fitness level, as some are safer than others.
Week 6 to-do list
* Aim to batch cook and keep the leftovers in the freezer to use during the week
* Treat yourself to a reward for all your hard work so far (ideally something healthy!)
* Don't forget to keep measuring your progress every week
* Try a hill walk: coillte.ie is a great resource for the marked hill walking trails all over Ireland
* Use the stairs instead of any lifts or escalators this week
Week 6 exercise: ab crossovers
This is one of my favourite exercises for the core muscles.
1. Start by lying on the floor, with your hands under your bum. This helps to support your lower back.
2. Raise your legs up in the air at a 45 degree angle, ensuring to keep the legs straight.
3. Now simply cross one leg over the other, stretching as wide as you feel comfortable. The lower you bring the legs, the harder it will get and the more pressure will be placed upon your lower back, so if it's getting too hard, bring the legs higher.
4. Aim for 3 sets of 20 reps.
Fitness tip of the week:
Contrary to popular myth, there is no actual 'ideal' time to exercise for your body. You will get great benefits regardless if you train in the morning or evening. The best time to train is the one that you enjoy the most because this means that you are more likely to do it for the long term.