What Is Cardio And Do I Need To Do It?
You’ve probably heard a lot of people talking about it and you have a feeling this is something you really should be doing. But, what exactly is cardio exercise exactly?
To answer this question, you would need to know how this affects your body differently from other exercises. What exactly counts as training and what doesn’t?
What Is Cardio Training?
Cardio training is anything that raises your heart and breathing rates which helps improves the function of your lungs, heart, and circulatory system.
There are a few misconceptions that I would like to tackle first.
Cardio = Any exercise that increases your heart rate
To be honest and this may come across a little obvious, but any exercise that you do will increase your heart rate.
It doesn’t matter if you are going for a run, lifting weights or working out to an exercise video.
To qualify as a cardio workout it needs to satisfy two things. It has to increase your heart and breathing rate and it also has to challenge your cardiovascular system.
A leisurely stroll might in practice be exercising and increasing your heart rate. However, unless the exercise in question doesn’t challenge the heart and lungs enough, then it doesn’t qualify as a cardio workout.
Cardio is the same as aerobic exercise, isn’t it?
This is a common myth and not entirely wrong. You see, an anaerobic exercise is a form of cardio training but it isn’t the only one.
If think of your body as being a hybrid that has two engines.
One of them requires oxygen to work and the other anaerobic which means it doesn’t need oxygen.
Now, both of these engines are always active. However, depending on the intensity of the workout you’ll find that one is working harder than the other.
If you are going to use the aerobic system, it would be best to use this on easy activities that last for a long time and are considered as lower intensity forms of exercise.
Exercises lasting no longer than 20 minutes would qualify.
On the flip side, the anaerobic engine is designed for really intense workouts like squats and barbell exercises. Basically short-burst exercises with high intensity (HIIT).
Myth – You get better results if you track your heart rate
The fact that cardiovascular exercises are directly related to how hard your heart is working, it means you need a super duper heart monitor to track your heart rate, right?
Erm, no, not really.
Unless you are a world class athlete, there’s really no need for you to do this. In fact, a lot of watches like Fitbit and the Apple watch will do this for you anyway.
Myth – Running, riding and swimming are the only cardio exercises
To be honest with you, when it comes to cardio training it’s not the exercises that are important, it’s how you do those exercises that are important.
A lot of HITT exercises, dancing (like Zumba) and various types of strength training (like circuits) would qualify as typical cardio exercises.
Don’t think you can only do these types of exercises in the gym. You can also carry out these types of exercises doing your normal chores.
Chores like raking the leaves, carrying shopping from the car or even moving furniture to clean behind.
It really doesn’t matter what it is you’re doing, as long as you are doing it with some intensity and commitment, that’s all that matters.
A few cardio exercises
I mentioned a few of the usual candidates earlier, like running, brisk walking, cycling, and swimming. However, doing things like kickboxing or even shoveling snow would constitute.
The key here is to keep the intensity high so that you challenge your heart and lungs.
Here are a few more exercises:
- Jump rope
- Organised sports (football, gymnastics, tennis, etc)
- Power walking
Benefits of cardio training
What are the benefits of doing cardio exercises and do you need to do them?
Studies have shown that adding cardio exercises to your workout can be extremely beneficial.
Just like everyone advises you to do regular exercises to maintain good health, doing regular cardio exercises would be an added bonus.
The more cardio exercises you do, the more efficient your heart will be pumping blood around your body.
Other important benefits include:
- improved cholesterol
- stress reduction
- lower blood pressure
- mood and self-esteem boost
- weight control
- improved sleep