Cardiovascular Fitness and Fat Burning

Cardiovascular disease is the primary cause of death in the United States and accounts for over 950,000 deaths annually. This is 42% of all deaths and 12%, or nearly 250,000, are directly related to a sedentary lifestyle. While your genetics for cardiovascular disease cannot be changed, their expression can be reduced with exercise, diet, supplements and a healthy lifestyle.

Lack of exercise is a significant factor in cardiovascular disease (CVD). In fact, some studies have shown that your risk for CVD can drop up to 80% with consistent aerobic activity. Heart attack survivors are placed on a cardiovascular exercise program to strengthen their heart and stimulate circulation: therefore, beginning a cardiovascular exercise regime before you have a heart attack will lower your risk for becoming a statistic from heart disease. It also promotes fat burning and weight loss, two welcome side effects.

Cardiovascular exercise is specific in duration, frequency and intensity. Duration is a minimum of 30 minutes with a goal of 45 to 60. Frequency is a minimum of three times per week, although daily is acceptable if you are not overtraining. A simple technique to check for overtraining is to watch your resting heart rate upon arising in the morning. An increase of 10% or more indicates you need to skip a workout. Also, failure to complete your last workout indicates you need to take some time off. Intensity is LSD: Long Slow Distance. Indicators of an LSD intensity workout are being able to carry on a conversation easily, without getting winded at all while training: finishing your workout and feeling like you could do more: and if you train with a heart rate monitor, keeping your heart rate under 75% of your maximum. To calculate your maximum heart (MHR) rate refer to the chart below.

As for the side effects of LSD training, it promotes using fat as an energy source as opposed to carbohydrates. In fact, the fat burning zone is under 70% of your maximum heart rate, so keeping your cardiovascular exercise in the lower intensity range trains your body to burn fat for energy. Then as your endurance improves, duration increases and the amount of calories burned is greater. Also, as you continue exercising within the cardiovascular and fat burning zones, your circulation improves throughout your whole body which prepares your muscles for the weight training phase because it will be easier to get nutrients into your muscles and waste products removed with better circulation. Two terrific side effects from cardiovascular exercise at low and moderate intensity.

While genetic makeup of your heart and cardiovascular system cannot be changed, its expression can be reduced with a diet that is high in omega-3 fatty acids, (fish oils, olive oil, flax seed oil), high in phytonutrients from vegetables and fruits and low in grains. Yes, low in grains since grains promote inflammation in our bodies because they are high in omega-6 fatty acids. In fact, fish and meats that are feed a whole grain diet are also high in omega-6 fatty acids and are therefore pro-inflammatory, too. Cardiovascular disease has been recognized as an inflammatory process, so by reducing the amount of inflammation in your body, cardiovascular disease will be expressed less. This diet also provides an abundance of fiber which has also been linked to a lower risk of CVD.

This concept of a low inflammatory or "Deflame Diet" is based on human biochemistry, not on blood type, hair color or your astrological sign. The information is well researched and will be a topic for a future article. In the meantime, readers looking for more information can email me at and ask for the Deflame Diet.

Other external risk factors that can be controlled include smoking and obesity. Both are to be avoided. Smoking will not only increase your blood pressure, as well as decrease your overall circulation, it will increase your risk for cardiovascular disease three fold. In fact, smoking increases your risk for any cancer up to eight times to that of a nonsmoker. As for obesity, take note that it is not the scale that determines if you are overweight. Go back to the mirror evaluation, (see Fit is The New Thin: An Introduction) and move forward from that point.

Beneficial lifestyle choices also include mediation or prayer, a positive mental attitude and sleep. Research has documented that adequate rest improves weight loss, decreases inflammation, and promotes healing. Make sure you get enough sleep.

Numerous dietary supplements have been shown to benefit the cardiovascular system. As mentioned above, the omega-3 fatty acids lead the list along with co-enzyme Q-10, vitamin E (especially the gamma fraction), vitamins B and C, along with the minerals magnesium and potassium. This a partial list of supplements for cardiovascular health so be sure to talk with your doctor about the exact supplements you need as well as the appropriate dosage.

Now it's time to begin an exercise program, low intensity and slowly build up the duration. Start with 15 minutes three times per week, gradually increasing to 30 minutes, then 45. At that point you can add an additional day. Remember, one of the hallmarks of proper training is to be able to complete your workouts without feeling fatigued or exhausted. For readers that are already exercising frequently, check your intensity level. Consistently training at over 80% of your MHR will train your body to use carbohydrates and sugars for energy and lead to overtraining and injuries. Remember LSD promotes fat burning and prepares your muscles for weight training. Of course, check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

Maximum Heart Rate Formula:

Women: 226 - Age = MHR

Men: 220 - Age = MHR

Dr. Donald DeFabio is a dual board certified Chiropractic Physician in Berkeley Heights, NJ and author of Health Management: The DeFabio Difference. He is the Director of DeFabio Spine and Sports Rehab, LLC where Acupuncture, Chiropractic, Nutrition, and Personal Training are integrated for a comprehensive approach to your health management. The office may be reached at  or

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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