Getting to the heart of cardio fitness matters

Mon Feb 28, 2011 6:04am EST
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By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Health and fitness experts agree that aerobic exercise, whether accomplished by treadmill, bicycle or sidewalk, is the workout way to take good care of your heart.

But they say increasing evidence shows weight, or resistance, training and flexibility also have their parts to play.

"As I tell my patients, it really is survival of the fittest," said Dr. Barry Franklin, director of cardiac rehabilitation and exercise laboratories at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan and spokesperson for the American Heart Association.

"We have unequivocal data that people who are physically active have 50 percent lower incidence of cardio vascular disease than their sedentary counterparts," Franklin said. "The higher the fitness, the lower the mortality."

Franklin said escalating studies suggest complementing that treadmill time with resistance and flexibility training helps maintain muscle tone and burns additional calories.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Every year about 785,000 Americans have a first heart attack.

Franklin said an effective cardio workout varies with the exerciser's age and level of fitness.

"Probably most of us, including myself as a researcher, overestimated the intensity we need to improve heart/lung fitness," he said. "We now recognize that between 40 to 50 percent of (a person's exercise capacity) is the threshold."   Continued...