In case you haven’t heard yet, the media recently gave its stamp of approval for the phrase “Cardio,” to describe an extensive program of exercise designed to improve cardiovascular health. According to popular opinion, cardio is great for weight loss. That’s one side of the argument. The other side of the argument says that cardio is important for heart health.
Benefits of Cardio Exercise
There are many benefits of cardiovascular exercise but some argue that there are many harmful effects of cardio, too, particularly for the elderly and especially for those who are overweight.
Cardio is essentially exercise that specifically utilizes large muscles in addition to small muscle groups. Aerobic exercise is basically a physical activity of high to a low intensity that relies mainly on the cardiovascular energy-generating system. “Aerobics” means “with air” and it is an exercise method in which the central nervous system and the cardiovascular system participate in rhythmic movement. Cardiovascular is basically bicep and heart rate while aerobics is basically lung function and endurance.
The goal of cardiovascular or aerobic activity is to maximize blood flow to the body tissues, most notably the muscles. This increase in blood flow allows more oxygen and nutrients to reach the muscles making them stronger and healthier.
Cardiovascular exercises include activities such as running, bicycling, brisk walking, and swimming; and yoga, pilates, flexibility classes, rock climbing, dancing, and rowing. The reason that Pilates and Yoga are often included in a cardio program is that they focus on deep breathing and relaxing postures which allow greater blood flow to the muscles as well as increased lymphatic drainage.
When doing cardio exercise, a person can choose from multiple styles. For example, jogging and sprinting are considered cardiovascular workouts while cross country skiing and long-distance bicycle riding are considered anaerobic workouts.
There are also two different ways to do cardio training which are called interval training and steady-state cardio training. Interval training involves having your heart rate speed up for a short period of time and then slowing down to a constant pace. The steady-state cardio training consists of repeating the same heart rate for a specific amount of time.
Cardio Fitness Training
While a typical cardio session may require no more than an hour of exercise, certain exercises require much longer workouts such as those done for weight loss. Long-term cardio fitness training should be performed three times a week with fifteen to twenty minutes of cardio workout.
Some doctors and heart specialists recommend that exercising slowly three times per week for an extended period of time is good for improving cardiovascular fitness. For some, especially those who are recovering from an injury or illness, exercising slowly can be very helpful in building muscle strength as well as endurance. The best way to decide which type of cardio is best for you is to try out different activities to see which one you enjoy the most.
While traditional cardio exercises usually involve running, cycling, swimming, and stair stepping, some forms of yoga, tai chi, and aerobic dancing have also been proven to be beneficial to the heart. These activities are considered to be anaerobic because they require that the heart pump more blood through the body.
Aerobic exercises can improve the heart’s efficiency in pumping blood but they can also burn fat so the effects are more for cardiovascular fitness rather than weight loss. If you are looking to lose weight, doing a combination of traditional cardio exercises and weight training is a good idea.
A good mix between traditional cardio and weight training is interval training. In this method of exercising, the heart rate is increased gradually over a set period of time. The increase in heart rate is made up for by alternating periods of high intensity exercise with periods of lower intensity exercise.
The reasoning behind doing interval training is that it takes the body longer to get from one end of a heart rate zone to another so the muscle will have less time to accumulate energy and therefore burn calories. If you are trying to lose weight, doing an hour of cardiovascular exercise two to three times a week is usually enough to meet your needs.
There are many other ways in which cardiovascular exercise helps the body. It helps to strengthen muscles and tendons so you don’t injure them when engaging in physical activity. It also improves your breathing and increases lung capacity.
Finally, doing cardiovascular exercise regularly can help to improve your memory as well as lower your blood pressure. These are all important things to keep in mind when it comes to fitness.