Most cardio fanatics and endurance athletes understand that keeping a focus on heart rate during exercise is a vital component to improving total heart health and overall fitness. In fact, some health and fitness experts may even claim it is the most critical facet to cardio fitness development. Period. But what exactly is the big deal?
Let’s take a look at the science of a stronger heart.
First, we need to put the heart’s work ethic into perspective. The normal heart rate for an awake, at rest adult is approximately 70 beats per minute (BPM). If sustained at this rate, the average heart will beat approximately 36.7 millions times in a lifetime. It’s something the majority of us never really think about, but it’s a mind-bending concept. Our heart is the engine that beats for the entirety of our lives without taking a break. So, don’t you owe your heart the health it deserves?
Fun statistic for those seeking some inspiration: the lowest resting heart rate ever recorded came from 5-time Tour de France winner Miguel Indurane and was calculated at 33 BPM! Like Miguel, other endurance athletes achieve insanely low resting BPM’s by challenging their aerobic capacities to unprecedented levels. They commit their lives to fitness and health. As a result, these sportsmen operate with some of the world’s most efficient hearts.
From a physical viewpoint, a more powerful heart produces a larger stroke volume, meaning each contraction delivers more oxygen-rich blood to your body tissues. It’s like using a squirt gun as opposed to a fire hose when putting out a fire – the fire hose expels more water in less amount of time. Diving deeper into the topic of efficiency, new studies suggest that increased blood flow to muscle tissue triggers the growth of new capillaries. This means, over time, arteries will supply oxygen-rich blood to the muscles at a faster rate. So breathe easy!
Most everyone can improve his or her heart’s performance. One method to obtain increased heart strength is by engaging in regular aerobic exercise, including both moderate and vigorous exercise intensities. Other, but not all, positive health-related benefits associated with cardiovascular fitness include healthier body tissues, increased energy levels, a more efficient respiratory system and more frequently released endorphins. Plus, with the extra release of endorphins, you will be a much happier individual.
For more information on endurance training and cardiovascular fitness, check out some great cardio machine options over at LiveStrong Fitness.