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Cardio seems synonymous with heart healthy talks as well as beginner weight loss regimes. First, let’s break down cardio. It can easily be referred to as “aerobic” exercise as well. Besides flashes of jazzercise, step and leotards, the word “aerobic” also means “with oxygen.”

When you participate in an aerobic activity, you are working at 70-80% of your maximum heart rate. While you are sweating and feel a little breathless, this means your heart is pumping quickly, but also steadily. It will improve blood circulation, which will increase your lungs capacity. The heart afterall is a muscle, so it grows stronger. As it grows stronger, it is able to pump more blood with each heart beat. So a fit person has a much lower heart rate than an unfit person. It will take less time for a fit person to recover.

Most fitness experts and resources recommend 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise at least 3-4 days a week.

(WE recommend trying this Skinny Mom Cardio Blast Workout to get your cardio in!)


While there’s tons of apps and monitors to track your heart rate during a run, elliptical session or fitness class, there’s little discussion of what these “zones” exactly mean.

Here’s the breakdown of the 4 Heart Rate Zones:

Healthy Heart Zone: working out at 50-60% of your maximum heart rate. You should be able to hold a conversation with little effort and even sing while exercising in this zone. Walking and primary warm up exercises will get you in this zone.

It is the least impact zone that still provides health benefits—though it will not suffice as your “workout”.

Here’s what it burns: 10% glycogen stores, 5% protein and 85% body fat…but very few calories.

Fat Burning Zone: 60-70% of your maximum heart heart. You should reach this level in a jog. You should still be able to comfortably talk—a.k.a you are not gasping for air and a sentence takes you the usual time to spit out. It’s called the fat burning zone because this zone is the first zone that has shown to build muscle mass resulting in more effective fat burn.

Here’s what it burns: the same as zone 1.

Aerobic Zone: You are working at  70-80% of Maximum Heart Rate zone. You should have to take short breaths to complete your sentences or rather only a few words at a time. Generally this is the running, cycling, elliptical and jump rope zone.

Here’s what it burns: glycogen & fats at about 50% – 50%

Anaerobic Zone: You are working at 80-90% of Maximum Heart Rate. This is a high intensity workout zone, sometimes called the Performance Zone. Talking is not an option in this zone as you should literally be gasping for air. When you workout in this zone, your body cannot get rid of the lactic acid that is the byproduct of anaerobic metabolism. By working in this zone, you will build a tolerance to this lactic acid enabling you to better fight fatigue. You should only be able to stay at this level for short amounts of time. Interval training will take you into the anaerobic zone and will increase your VO2 Max: a special term referring to how hard you are breathing.

Here’s what it burns: 85% glycogen and 15% fat. However, it will ultimately burn more carbs and calories than actual fat.

Red Line Zone: Stay out of this zone…unless you have been cleared by a physician to workout at this level and you are training for the Olympics. In this zone, you would be working at 90-100% of Maximum Heart Rate. Even trained athletes only stay in this zone for extremely short periods of time.

Find the Full list and more information here.