Looking to improve your heart health? Exercise is by far the best way to go about it, but not all exercise is equal. Although high intensity routines have certainly been getting all the attention in recent times, it’s cardiac output training–or steady state cardio–that does the best for your heart.
Cardiac output training is all about increasing stroke volume. In other words, it helps increase the amount of blood that each heart beat is pumping through your body. With time, this will lower your heart rate–meaning your heart is getting stronger, beating less, and in general being more efficient. Steady state cardio does this by growing the left ventricle of your heart. This is the chamber that pumps the oxygenated blood throughout your whole body.
Steady state cardio is able to do this by keeping your heart rate in a certain range, generally about 120 to 150 beats per minute, for an extended period of time that ranges from 30 minutes to 90 minutes. In the time, the chambers of the heart repeatedly fill themselves with large amounts of blood. The left side of your heart has walls that will respond to the stimulus, leading to them stretching. With repeated steady state cardio sessions, this leads to a larger cavity in the left ventricular that makes your heart more efficient in pumping blood about your body.
A lower heart rate while resting and exercising means your heart isn’t working nearly as hard as it used to, and that’s really important for its longevity. If you have a high resting heart rate that comes in at 70 beats per minute or above, steady state cardio should definitely be part of your routine to gradually help lower that rate to a healthy level, which is around 60 beats per minute or lower.
If you’re new to training or just getting started again after taking a long break, steady state cardio is also going to be ideal for you. Just about any type of low intensity exercise, like swimming, jogging, skipping, or biking, can be used for your steady state training. The important thing is to start slow and gradually work up the difficultly level as your endurance and strength increase.
Within a matter of a few months, you should begin to feel changes in your body composition, your health and stamina, and how fast your heart is beating while exerting energy during a workout.