“Best feeling ever: Looking back and knowing that what you just completed has changed you.”
The Fitness – Mood Connection
The connection between physical fitness and mental health, is commonly sited by seasoned athletes and others in the first few weeks of new exercise program. In fact, it goes well beyond anecdotal accounts. The literature is clear – Exercise improves mood (psychological wellbeing), and enhances self-concept/self-esteem (Plante and Rodin, 1990; Plante, 2007; Angus et al., 2017).
Ultra runner Rob Krar is a good example. Rob openly talks about the powerful effects of running as one element of his personalized comprehensive regime for fighting clinical depression. In various interviews, Rob credits his positive support system, medication, and running, all of which when used together, keeps his mood under control.
Before You Start: See Your Physician
Okay, thus far, we have established the link between fitness and mood. Ready to create your own high output cardio exercise program?
Not so fast!
If you decide to make changes in your habits based on any article we publish on fitness, it is vitally important that you get cleared by your physician, especially for any new exercise endeavour you venture. This should go without saying, right? Just in case, we are explicitly saying it now!
Defining Intensive Cardio
‘Intensive cardio,’ exercise is defined as any repetitive activity that increases your heart rate into an efficient energy burning zone. In other words, the activity you are doing remains aerobic in nature. If your efforts are too high, you become anaerobic, causing soreness and pain.
A few examples of effective cardio exercises include:
- Power Walking
Measuring Intensive Cardio
The best way to measure cardiac output is by using the Zone Method. The Zone Method is a standard calculation that outputs five heart rate ranges (percentages) based on your maximum heart rate (220-age):
In the above table, notice that there are five levels from grey to pink. For this individual, the range 95-114 (Zone One) is considered very light and identified as improving overall health and exercise recovery. If this is your current goal, it is important to keep your workout at an intensity that keeps you in this heart rate range.
Confused? No problem! For a deeper look at zone calculation, check out the following explanation:
Building Your Personalized Intensive Cardio Program
We have developed six essential elements for you to consider as you put together your personalized cardio program. While we believe that every element we suggest is important, it is not necessarily comprehensive. However, when combined with SMART goal setting, and CBT, there should be nothing holding you back.
- Calculate Your Zones: After you calculate your heart rate zones (for a quick and easy calculation us Aussie Fit Sport Science online calculator), examine the ranges. Notice that moderate (Zone 3) falls between 70% and 80% of your maximum heart rate.
- Commit to a Range: Design an activity based on Zone Three. Your activity should be intense enough that your heart rate gets within this rage, but not so intense that it goes above. Thinking about heart rate helps you pick the right activity for improved health. If your heart rate falls below, the activity is not intense enough. If it climbed above, the activity is too challenging.
- Keep an Exercise Diary: One way to build a personalized program based on cardiac output is to keep a workout diary. We suggest keeping in digitally. Garmin Connect uses the calendar method. If you prefer an analogue method, that works too!
- Use Health Metrics To Measure Progress: There are endless methods for measuring the fruits of your labor. You might notice that you have to work harder and longer to get within Zone Three. This is a clear indication of improved fitness. At Finding My Psych we strongly discourage using weight as a measure of progress.
- Join an Online Community: Support and accountability can be accomplished by joining an online community. We recently joined the Evernote Ever Better Challenge (#everbetterchallenge) on facebook. What an amazing community!
- Rate Your Mood Daily: In our view, this is the most important part of building a personalized cardio program. While we tend to focus on the physiologic outcomes, it is also important to measure mood. We suggest that this is done daily by using a mood log app.
Technology For Measuring Zones and Health
There is an overwhelming amount of tech resources designed to measure heart rate zones and resulting health outcomes. In the future, the Finding My Psych team will conduct a comprehensive review comparing the pros and cons of the more popular options.
- VO2 Max
- Performance Condition
- Training Effect (Aerobic and Anaerobic)
- Lactate Threshold
- Recover Time
- Training Load
- Training Status
- HRV Stress Test
- Heart Rate Variability
- Ground Contact Time & Balance
- Vertical Oscillation and Ratio
Just a final note on tech: While we are absolute tech junkies at Finding My Psych, it is important to also acknowledge that fancy gear is not required. While data is helpful for identifying outcomes, you can easily measure resting heart rate in the morning on your own, etc.
Recommended Reading For Runners (The Cardio Junky)
Running is the best exercise for intense cardiac output. If you want to start a running program, the absolute first book you should read is, “Running” by John Stanton. John is the creator of the, “Running Room,” a Canadian athletic store targeting running professionals and enthusiasts alike. It has a series of easy to follow plans to help you meet your first 5k, 10k, half, and full marathon goals.