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Fundamentals of Fitness: Cardiovascular Exercise


January 23, 2013 | Published by

man on treadmill

People with adrenal fatigue or dysfunction often ask what kind of exercise program is best for them. Suggesting a specific routine without knowing an individual’s medical history, physical limitations, and personal goals is difficult. However, I am happy to offer some general recommendations. First of all, if you haven’t exercised in a while and you have heart disease, diabetes, asthma or any other health concerns, check with your doctor before you begin.

Physical fitness is a state of health and well-being that allows people to perform various physical activities. Fitness is commonly divided into four fundamental categories: cardiovascular, strength, flexibility, and balance. Fitness is a relative term; being fit for an Olympic gymnastics competition is different than achieving the fitness to run your first 5K race. Nevertheless, attaining a general state of fitness in the four core areas will give you the heart and lung capacity, strength, mobility, and balance to perform your daily activities with ease and help you achieve other personal physical goals.

Cardiovascular exercise, commonly known as “cardio,” refers to any activity that increases your heart rate and keeps it elevated over a period of time- generally 30 minutes or more- through repetitive motion activities such as dancing, biking, swimming, walking, or kickboxing. Treadmills, stair steppers, rowing machines, and elliptical machines are often used to achieve this at the gym. You may have heard this type of exercise referred to as aerobic. This literally means with oxygen. Muscles can produce energy for a short period of time without oxygen. However, if muscles are continually engaged, they switch over to fat as their fuel source, which requires oxygen to burn.

After several minutes of an easy warm up activity such as walking to prepare your heart, lungs, and blood vessels for the demands to follow, cardio should ideally be performed for 30 minutes or more at an intensity that is 50-75% of your maximum heart rate. Your maximum heart rate depends on a number of factors, but can be roughly calculated as 220 minus your age. For example, a 25 year old woman would have a maximum heart rate of around 195 beats per minute (220-25). Her target heart rate during cardiovascular exercise would be 98- 146 beats per minute.

When you are in your target heart range, your heart rate and breathing are increased and you typically sweat, but you are still able to talk. This ensures that you are “getting a workout” while still obtaining the oxygen you need to continue to fuel your muscles. If you are new, keep your heart rate at the low end of your range. As your fitness level improves, you may increase the intensity of your workout and aim for closer to 75% of your maximum heart rate.

Cardio is an excellent type of workout for those new to exercise because it’s done at a relatively low intensity and because it has numerous benefits in the body, including:

  • weight loss
  • stress reduction
  • enhanced circulation
  • improved endurance
  • increased good cholesterol
  • reduced risk of heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes

For exercise benefits directly related to adrenal function, see my previous blog: Have Fun Moving!

People with a high degree of fitness can include high intensity anaerobic (without oxygen) training in their workouts, in the form of interval training. This type of training involves working at such intensity that your muscles don’t receive enough oxygen to keep up with the demands on them. A burst of high intensity activity is followed by a short recovery period before doing another burst.

During anaerobic training, the muscles utilize a storage form of sugar called glycogen as a fuel source instead of fat because the glycogen doesn’t require oxygen to burn. This type of workout burns a lot of calories, increases metabolism, and improves your cardiovascular response and aerobic capacity, and will result in burning fat after the activity is over, but you should have a very strong aerobic fitness level before you begin adding high intensity anaerobic training of this nature.

In my next blog, I discuss a different type of strength training that is helpful for beginners to incorporate into their fitness program.

Image Credits: man on exercise bike by Flickr user Joint Base Lewis McChord; heart rate monitor by Flickr user Digitalnative

Dr. Lise NaugleAbout the Author: Dr. Lise Naugle is an associate of Dr. James L. Wilson. She assists healthcare professionals with clinical assessment and treatment protocols related to adrenal dysfunction and stress, and questions regarding the use of Doctor Wilson’s Original Formulations supplements. With eleven years in private practice and a focus on stress, adrenals, hormonal balance and mind-body connection, she offers both clinical astuteness and a wealth of practical knowledge. Dr. Naugle also maintains updated information about the latest scientific research on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function, endocrine balance and nutritional support for stress and develops educational materials about stress and health for clinicians and their patients.

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  • kathleen Cooley says:

    Can someone tell me the norms for cortisol in US. Also when is it highest in the day. Is 8 normal for fasting in am. Thank you

  • kathleen Cooley says:

    Thank you. I have the book, but had not read that My story is so typical of others. Hypoglycemia 35 yrs., fibromyalgia 10 yrs., reaction strong after taking Advair for bronchitis. Blood sugar up and down 100 points within an hour. No more steroids for me, no matter what the pdr says. In the late 70s an endocrinologist in Havertown ,PA injected me with adrenal cortex extract which helped tremendously, after being given depression meds that turned the whites of my eyes yellow. THen of course it was taken off the market by rhe FDA.
    That is how I found Dr. Wilson when by searching online I discovered his book and adrenal glandular.
    Blood work for cortisol revealed the fasting 8 at 8AM. Was sent for ACTH as a result & told I am normal. The next hoop by the pa at the endocrinologist is a sleep study. The steroid response started the extreme fatigue, not poor sleeping. I just couldn’t figure out why I was sent for the ACTH TEST because the cortisol at 8 was considered low. And thus my question “If 8 is low and that is when it’s highest in the day, wouldn’t that cause fatigue………….I guess I can see I’d need several blood draws a day to get a real picture. Also I had to wait 3 months to get an app. with the Endo dr. Dr.WIlson’s Adrenal Rebuilder is the only thing that is helping. Otherwise Sept-Jan 80% time I have ent in bed. Yuk. Thanks for your help, the only help from medical world todate. Kathleen

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