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Raise Heart Rate for Better Health

Just because you can't run, swim or walk outdoors at all hours anymore, it doesn't mean you can't reap the benefits of a strong "cardio" workout. Intense workouts make you breathe harder and get your heart to beat faster. You can push a lawn mower, take a dance class, or bike to the store – all types of activities count. As long as you're doing them at a moderate or intense rate.

How do you know if you're doing light, moderate, or vigorous intensity aerobic activities? According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans , light daily activities -- shopping, cooking or doing laundry -- don't count because your body isn't working hard enough to get your heart rate up.

Moderate-intensity aerobic activity means you're working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat. One way to tell is that you'll be able to talk, but not sing the words to your favorite song without stopping. Here are some examples of activities that require moderate effort:

• Walking fast

• Doing water aerobics

• Riding a bike on level ground or with few hills

• Playing doubles tennis

• Pushing a lawn mower

If you want to do more vigorous-level activities, slowly replace the moderate level ones, like brisk walking, with more vigorous activities like jogging. Vigorous-intensity aerobic activity means you're breathing hard and fast, and your heart rate has gone up quite a bit. If you're working at this level, you won't be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath. Here are some examples of vigorous activities:

• Jogging or running

• Swimming laps

• Riding a bike fast or on hills

• Playing singles tennis

You can do moderate- or vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, or a mix of the two each week. A rule of thumb is that one minute of vigorous-intensity activity is about the same as two minutes of moderate-intensity activity.

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