A cardiovascular fitness program has three parts: warm-up, conditioning aerobic exercise, and cool-down. The exercise should be frequent enough, intense enough, of sufficient duration, and of the appropriate type to induce a training effect.
In general, try to set up your program so that you expend about 1,000 to 2,000 calories a week with exercise. Walking 10 to 20 miles per week accomplishes that goal for the average person. (See the chart on page 1 73 to compare other activities.) There is no evidence of a further reduction in cardiovascular risk by exercising to burn off more than 2,000 calories per week, unless you are trying to lose weight.
A warm-up phase develops and maintains muscle and joint flexibility and prepares the body for the conditioning phase of the program. The essential parts of the warm-up are stretching and low-intensity endurance exercises, which gradually increase your heart rate, body temperature, and blood flow to the muscles.
You may include muscle strengthening and toning exercises to improve your total fitness level. The warm-up phase should last 5 to 10 minutes.
The conditioning aerobic phase of your program may include any aerobic activity that requires continuous rhythmic muscle contraction of the legs and perhaps the arms. Walking, biking, swimming, jogging, cross-country skiing, rowing, rope skipping, dancing, and racket sports are good examples of aerobic exercises. Choose something that you enjoy and will want to continue.
Adjust the frequency, intensity, time, and type (FITT) of your exercise program so you expend the desired amount of energy to achieve your fitness goals. For example, you might walk 4 miles 5 times in 1 week, and 5 miles 4 times in another week. You may spend an hour walking 4 miles on 1 day, but jog 4 miles in 40 minutes on another day.