Cardio is a buzzword in the fitness scene. However, not many people fully understand what cardio actually means. This article will decipher the concept of cardio fitness and discover the best cardio exercises to get you active, healthy, and strong.
What is a Cardio Workout?
Cardio is any kind of endurance training or exercise that raises the heart rate. Essentially, any activity that leaves you exhausted, makes you sweat, and raises your heart rate counts as cardiovascular exercise. This means that your household chores, whether you’re mopping, dusting out in the garden, or painting, are probably a good solid hour or two of cardio.
Adults should work toward at least 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise every week. This means approximately 20 minutes a day every day of the week. But you don’t have to work out every day; you could instead do 30 minutes of cardio five times a week. As long as you don’t try and do too much, and as long as your total time spent on cardiovascular exercise every week is at least 150 minutes, then you’re tackling fitness the right way.
The Benefits of Cardiovascular Exercise
Taking part in cardiovascular fitness has many health benefits. Your body will start to work better, you get fitter, and thanks to endorphins released when you exercise, you might even start to feel happier.
Here are some of the other benefits of cardiovascular fitness:
- Better stamina and strength. The strength of your heart and lungs increases as you exercise. Even your bones will get stronger. While you might feel tired when you first start working out, your stamina will increase over time, and you’ll be able to work out for longer.
- Healthier immune system. The immune system directly links to vascular fitness; the more you exercise, the less likely you are to catch viral, bacterial, and fungal infections.
- Weight management. It’s no secret that a healthy diet and regular exercise keep the pounds off. Working exercise into your daily routine can help you healthily lose weight without having to starve yourself.
- Enhanced mood. Cardiovascular exercise is a great way to combat anxiety and tension. When you exercise, you’ll start sleeping better and relaxing. For some people, cardiovascular exercise is better at fighting depression than antidepressants.
The Best Cardio Workouts
This stands for high-intensity interval training. HIIT is a particular form of cardiovascular training that pushes your body to the max with short periods or intervals of recovery in between. During high-intensity interval training, your body is heavily on your anaerobic pathways. These are essential in the breakdown of glucose without using oxygen. This is how the body produces the energy it needs to keep you going.
HIIT gives you an immediate supply of energy, but it’s a short supply. This means that you can sustain higher levels of intensity but for a very short time. Essentially you can do 20 seconds of high-intensity interval training, with 40-second breaks in between.
Keeping two regular breaks between high-intensity training is essential. Firstly, you need to give your body time to recover. During high-intensity interval training, you are pushing your body to its limits. Secondly, getting your body to acclimate between two completely different states is an excellent example of cardio conditioning.
HIIT is a cardio workout that usually involves short bursts of sprinting, rowing, or running. However, the best way to incorporate high-intensity interval training into your cardiovascular fitness is any exercise that can be described as explosive. These would be short intervals of kettlebells, medicine balls, push-ups, squats, and anything else that engages your muscles in a high-intensity workout while spiking your heart rate.
Squats are considered compound movements. This is because they work multiple groups of muscles across multiple joints at once. The muscles most involved in squads are the quadriceps and your glutes. When you lower into a squat, you use your hip flexors and your hamstrings. You also work the muscles around your knees, which builds strength and helps to prevent injury.
For the duration of your squats, your core muscles are engaged to keep you steady. Strengthening your core muscles is essential to improving posture, decreasing back pain, and increasing your ability to lift, bend, and reach without risk of injuring yourself.
Lunges are a form of resistance training that mainly focuses on your legs. They’re the perfect addition to leg-day. The primary muscles engaged in lunges are the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. The exercise does, however, require a solid core to keep you stable, so your core muscles are exercised as well when you go down into a lunge and when you regain your standing position.
The lunge is also a functional movement when performed from different angles. Using functional movements can help you train your muscles in ways that benefit your everyday activities. By doing side lunges, for instance, you can strengthen the muscles you use to move and change direction.
You can also do lunges to prepare yourself for exercise and sports requiring lunging movements, such as tennis, basketball, and yoga. Yoga, weights, and upper body stretches can also be incorporated into lunges to engage the muscles in your arms, shoulders, and back, turning your lunges into a full-body workout.
Under the right conditions, walking can be as good as any other form of cardiorespiratory exercise. While leisurely afternoon strolls might not qualify as cardio exercise, keeping active and walking often lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease. Research shows that walking can boost your overall energy and immunity as well as strengthen your heart and lungs.
Running is far more intensive than walking, and aids with weight loss, and builds endurance and strength faster than normal, but not everyone can run long or terribly far. For those with knee and joint pain, walking instead of running can be especially beneficial. Overuse injuries are more likely to occur in runners than in walkers. Running also often requires sound mechanics and appropriate gear, as well as guidance from a coach. Walking is far easier and less intense on your leg muscles.
Cardiovascular and cardiorespiratory fitness is essential in people of all ages. Whether you get your heart rate up with daily tasks and chores, or high-intensity interval training, you’re on the right track. Keep exercising and keep reaping the benefits of staying active, healthy, and strong.