What is cardio exercise? This video and blog explain what cardio actually is, what the benefits are (there are lots!), what kind of cardio exercise you should do (you’ve got lots of options) and how often you should do it.
Cardio exercise involves the cardiovascular system, and it is defined as any movement you do that gets your heart beating faster.
We need a strong heart to enable us to live, breathe and function. So, it’s important that we look after ourselves and do cardio exercise.
1. Why is cardio exercise good for your body? First of all, it works your heart, which is a muscle. And like any other muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets. As you work it, your heart gets better at pushing blood through your system, which brings the oxygen and other things in your blood to the different parts of your body. If your arteries are smaller and if your heart doesn’t work as hard to push, then it needs to beat faster to get the same volume of blood around your body. So, the more you can work your heart, the more ‘practice’ it has, the more effective it will be at getting blood around the system.
Getting enough blood around your system will also boost your mood and raise your alertness levels. You might feel really tired before you do cardio exercise but once you’ve got your heart beating faster you just wake up and feel great!
Not only can cardio exercise boost your mood, it can also help you sleep better, it can help the calcium build in your bones, it helps lower your blood sugar levels, lower your cholesterol, lower your blood pressure, and it helps you to burn fat. With all these benefits, its easy to see how doing cardio exercise can reduce your risk of the cardiovascular diseases; it’s so good for you and so important to do.
2. What kind of cardiovascular exercise should you be doing? I get asked this a lot: the kind of exercise you should be doing is the kind of exercise you enjoy and the kind that you are going to do consistently. So, it could just be walking around your local area; it could be some exercise classes, online or in person when you can; it could be going to the gym; it could be jogging; basically, anything that gets your heart beating slightly faster.
It doesn’t have to be a dedicated exercise session where you go out and do something. It could just be a few bursts during the day, perhaps going up the stairs two at a time; walking in a bit faster; parking a bit further away from where you need to be; taking the stairs rather than the lift. What you are looking for with cardiovascular exercise is any activity where you get breathless to the point where you’re a bit warm and feel it would be good to take a layer off.
3. How often should you do cardio exercise? Anything is better than not exercising at all, so something small is better than nothing at all, and consistency is more important than intensity. But if you’re looking for a recommendation, then you could aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, that kind where you feel little bit breathless, and 75 minutes of more intense exercise per week. That will be a guide, but don’t get hung up on the numbers; consistency is key, and it really is better to try and do something every day.
One of the traps people fall into is thinking that cardio is all about burning fat. Although that can be a by-project, it’s really minuscule compared to the amount of food that we eat, so it’s best to do cardio exercise for the other benefits. Cardio is good for your whole health, but particularly for your emotional health and your mood. If you do it at the beginning of the day, it can really set you up to be in a better place for the rest of the day. Better still, if you can intersperse it throughout your day, it will help your mood to be more balanced all day.
We have been having such fun in the Fitfish online exercise classes. Options include Praise Aerobics, West End Workout, Intervals, Circuits and Band Exercises, each running at different times of day, so there’s plenty of variety! If you feel like giving it a try we’d love you to join us. You can find all the details here.