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Have you been paying attention to your cardiorespiratory fitness index? It's not just for super fit athletes. In fact, the opposite is true: According to the American Heart Association (AHA), there is growing evidence that people with low heart and lung function are at greater risk of dying from heart disease. In other words, the least fit people do everything they can to improve their scores.
High-intensity exercise is touted as the most effective way to improve health, but these types of exercise aren't always realistic for people who exercise very little. So researchers analyzed some studies on the effects of low-intensity exercise and found some good news.
First, moderate-intensity exercise (not just high-intensity exercise) can also improve cardiorespiratory fitness in unhealthy people.
Second, those with the lowest levels of cardiorespiratory fitness will reap the greatest rewards: all-cause and cardiovascular mortality will more than halve as you move from the least fit group to the next least fit.
This means that a person who switches from sedentary to active has a greater reduced risk of dying from heart disease than someone who is already fit and becomes healthier.
You also don't have to do a lot of exercise to get these results. After analyzing walking intervention studies, the American Heart Association concluded that sedentary people who started following current exercise guidelines -- 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise such as brisk walking per week -- could increase their aerobic activity by 10 percent.
That's not all. In a meta-analysis, fast walkers also lost 1.4% body weight, 1.9% body fat, and 2.8% systolic and diastolic blood pressure -- all without changing their diet.
The UK study authors said the results were "moderate but meaningful" and "may make it easier for people to participate in daily physical activity and improve their quality of life."
Four walking rules that are good for the heart
Are you ready to get started? Now that you know all the reasons why walking is so important, it's time to put this research into practice. That's it:
Aim to walk about 150 minutes a week. This equates to around 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
You can do these walks in a continuous period or in multiple periods of the day.
During these walks, your average heart rate should be 50% to 70% of your maximum heart rate, or within the fat-burning heart rate range of the bp smart device.
If your total weekly activity is consistently below 150 minutes, you'll need to walk at a slightly higher intensity to see results: 70 to 85 percent of your maximum intensity, or in the cardio zone of the Fitbit tracker.
When these exercises become too easy, relaxing to intermittent-vigorous exercise is still the best way for healthy individuals to consistently improve their aerobic fitness scores.