Cardio: beyond your heart

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In abbreviating the name used for cardiovascular exercise to just cardio, some confusion has arisen about what cardiovascular exercise is. Because the word cardio means heart, and heart rate is used during cardiovascular exercise, the common thought is that cardio is about strengthening your heart. We often refer to good cardio as ‘getting your heart rate up’.

Let’s take a little stroll through what happens in your body when you do cardio and see if there is more to cardio than its name implies.

The start of movement: When you start moving, your brain initiates the action by sending messages to your muscles to move. Therefore, cardio starts in, depends on, and changes your brain and nervous system.

The fuels: As your muscles start to move, they need fuel. There are two main systems for producing fuel for muscles: a long-acting, with-oxygen (aerobic) system and a short-acting, without-oxygen (anaerobic) system.

Since oxygen is carried by the blood, and at rest, only about 20% of your blood flow goes to your muscles,  when you start to move your body has to shift your blood flow to those muscles. It takes a few minutes for your muscles to get enough oxygen to use the longer-lasting system for fuel production. So for about the first three minutes of movement, your muscles get their fuel from carbohydrates stored right in the muscles.

Once your body redirects more blood to your muscles, your body can use the longer-lasting, with-oxygen system to keep you moving. This system uses mainly a combination of fats and carbohydrates to fuel muscles. But to do that, it needs the oxygen sent to it from the lungs, pumped through the heart, and transported through your blood vessels.

The equipment: Once your muscles are using the aerobic system for fueling your muscles, you are able to sustain that movement as long as that system has the equipment and fuels it needs. The equipment includes enzymes, mitochondria in cells, glucose, and blood supply, just to name just a few.

Use it to keep it: This equipment is kept sharp by use. If it is not used regularly, it starts to fade. In fact, this starts to happen after just three days of not doing a cardiovascular-type exercise. (If you are on bedrest, it happens even sooner.) This is why cardiovascular exercise is recommended at least three days a week to keep this equipment sharp and working well.

The heart: When the muscles are moving, they are contracting and pressing against your veins. This continuous, rhythmic movement helps the blood travel back to your heart after your muscles have used the oxygen and nutrients they need for that activity. When that blood comes back to the heart, it causes a little stretch in the heart muscle. Think about a balloon filled up with air without tying it. If that balloon has a little bit of air and you let it go, it does not go very far. But if that balloon is filled with a lot of air, and you let it go, it has power to go all over the room. When your heart fills with more blood, that stretch causes it to contract harder. Just like the balloon filled with air, the more blood that returns to your heart, the stronger that contraction.

A stronger heart: This stronger contraction is what is making your heart muscle stronger. The more muscles that are moving, the more blood gets sent back to your heart for that little stretch and stronger contraction. Moving your fingers continuously would send just a very small amount of blood back to your heart. Dancing using your arms and legs sends a much greater volume of blood to strengthen your heart.

Way beyond heart rate: Many things get your heart rate up—stress, caffeine, medications, even just thinking about exercise—but that does not make your heart and cardiovascular system stronger. What makes something good cardio is this challenge to your whole cardiovascular system. Every part of that system gets stronger when you do continuous movement using a large amount of muscles at a level you can sustain.

That sustainably of movement is what makes something cardio. There is much information about how hard you should push your body when doing cardio. I’ll talk about this aspect of cardio in the next blog.

Why the reasons to exercise are not enough to get you to do it

Years ago, as a ‘green’ exercise physiologist, one of my favorite posters hanging up in the cardiac rehab unit was this one:

To me, this was so convincing. Why wouldn’t someone want to exercise?

What I know now is that if you are an exerciser, these are great reminders of why you are exercising.

If you are stuck in the Shoulds with exercise, these only make you more stuck.

It is counterintuitive, but these big-time reasons to exercise are not the ones that will make you do it. These are big things that we all want, but they are oriented to a healthy future. What’s more important to your brain is how you feel right now. If exercise does not make you feel better now, your brain will find other things that will.

Your brain constantly gets messages from your body about how you feel and uses your memories and experiences to decide what to do to make you feel better now. No matter how logical it is to exercise for those very important future results, they will just not get you to exercise on a regular basis if right now you don’t have the time or energy to exercise.

If there was a fire in your home, you would not go organize your closet. You would put out the fire! This is how your brain makes decisions about exercise. If you are not feeling well in your body now, if your mind is overwhelmed with too many things to do, your brain will seek a way to put out that fire. The future results are not as important. Your brain needs you to feel better now.

Sure, you can override this and make yourself do activities with delayed rewards. The tradeoff is it takes a lot of brain energy. There are many parts of life that need that brain energy and making yourself exercise so some day you are healthy and well is low on that priority list compared to taking care of loved ones or making enough money to pay the bills. To your brain, the big-time future results from exercise are something that can be put off until later.

It’s the Real-time Results of everything, exercise included, that are most powerfully convincing for you to take action repeatedly. Yet those Real-time Results are often invisible. Instead, we focus on seeing future results like weight loss, finishing a 5K, a smaller size on the tag of your clothes, or a better report from your doctor on your next physical. We need convincing it is all worth our time.

If you want those big-time, far-off benefits from exercise, join me on a journey that reveals the Real-time Results from exercise. When they are more visible, your brain knows that exercise is a resource for being well now. In my next blog series, I’ll talk about exercise in the way that gets your brain’s attention now, so it is easier to take action now. You will Rethink Exercise from a present-moment perspective that makes your brain want to choose to exercise more often.
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One more thing: this will be done with a No-Should Guarantee. Should is the one word that destroys motivation more than anything else. I promise to talk about exercise in a way that helps you get out of the Shoulds and wanting to exercise now.  

Whole-heartedly,

P.S. If you want to Rethink Exercise to get out of the Shoulds, sign up for my blog on the right side of this page, so each Real-time Result is delivered right to your inbox!

The Win-Win Special ENDS at MIDNIGHT

The Win-Win Special ENDS at MIDNIGHT tonight.

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  1. Make a $45 tax deductible donation to the Enjoy Life Education scholarship fund by the end of today, April 22, 2019.
  2. Email me the receipt at janet@ExercisingWELL.com.
  3. I will send you a coupon code to receive your first month of the Exercising WELL coaching program FREE.

 

Help a teen get more out of life through the

 The Enjoy Life Education Leadership Academy.

Get more out of exercise, so you get more out of life with 

Exercising WELL Coaching Program

 

Win by Building Inner Confidence

It’s pay-it-forward week at Exercising WELL and we are running a Win/Win Special.  From now until April 22nd, 2019, when you donate $45 to the Enjoy Life Education scholarship fund, you get your first month of the Exercising WELL Coaching Program FREE.  

Confidence can be reliant on external sources or it can be an inner sense of knowing your own strengths. Studies show inner confidence is much more reliable and resilient through the ups and downs of life1. When you take advantage of the Win/Win special, you help a teen build inner confidence through the Enjoy Life Leadership Academy and grow your own inner confidence that you know how to be Exercising WELL.

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Enjoy Life Leadership Academy

Students build confidence though a stronger sense positive self-worth. From the moment students enter the academy, they are encouraged to not only be who they are, but also celebrate who they are with confidence and pride. They not only do this for themselves, but for each other. Students are immersed in a culture of self-worth that builds a natural and lasting inner confidence. Check out this 60-second video to see how that is done.  

Exercising WELL Coaching Program

Exercise success often is measured by external sources, such as the scale, the activity monitor, or a fitness challenge. But studies show these external sources for confidence are like building a house on sand, washed away by the next stressful event in life. Through the Exercising WELL online programs and personalized weekly coaching, you learn research-backed strategies for being internally guided and self-motivated. You gain solid inner confidence for exercise that carries over to other habits for your health and well-being.

  1. What is the Self-Determination Theory of Motivation?

Win through Mindfulness

It’s pay-it-forward week at Exercising WELL and we are running a Win/Win Special.   From now until April 22nd, 2019, when you donate $45 to the Enjoy Life Education scholarship fund, you get your first month of the Exercising WELL Coaching Program FREE.  

The research on the benefits of mindfulness is wide-reaching and overwhelmingly convincing. We all can benefit from more mindfulness skills1. Teens growing up in this distractible world need it more than ever. As adults, we need mindfulness to adapt to this age of technology and distractions.

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Enjoy Life Leadership Academy

A major component of the leadership academy is reminding students to live in the now. Students are constantly reminded to be present and encouraged to adopt strategies in their daily life to remember to make the most of each moment. The best part is that it’s done in a way that is fun, lighthearted, and enjoyable so students genuinely embrace living with more mindful presence.

Exercising WELL Coaching Program

Since your body only operates in the present moment, exercising with mindfulness is the only way to know how to exercise. Because so many of the reasons we exercise are for future rewards, such as weight loss, it is easy to think that exercise is just something to ‘get through’ so you can check it off the to do list. Yet, this how we miss the most valuable tool—the wisdom of our own Inner Trainer. Check out how one Exercising WELL member describes her newfound enjoyment of exercise with mindfulness: “I had a sense of joy while walking up a hill this week. I just felt strong and right and totally absorbed in the great walk, no distraction trying to take the hill. It was almost an exhilarating feeling. Definitely well-being.” Through Exercising WELL ,you learn how to use your Inner Trainer to be self-guided through mindful-presence and exercise becomes a whole new, more enjoyable, AND more motivating experience.

  1. The Science of Mindfulness by Dainel Siegel, Mindful