What’s a Cardio Workout?

So, we know exercise is good for us – good for the mind, good for the body.

But what comes to mind when you hear the word “exercise”?

Is it running on a track, doing calisthenics like in gym class, dancing, weightlifting, running a half marathon, walking, yoga, or something else?

Recommended Guidelines

According to Harvard Health Publications, guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend a well-rounded plan of “aerobic activity, strength training, and balance exercises.”

Over the next few weeks, I’ll touch on each of these 3 different exercise categories:

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Cardio/Aerobic

Strength

Flexibility/balance/core

Starting with Cardio/Aerobic

Is cardio the same as aerobic exercise?

You’ll hear both terms, but cardio and aerobic workouts are the same types of exercises.

Aerobic literally means “with oxygen”. Cardio (cardiovascular) gets the heart pumping or increasing heart rate.

Cardio Workout:

Activities that get your heart pumping for a sustained period of time, such as cycling, swimming, running, power walking, jump rope, rowing, calisthenics like jumping jacks and running in place, etc.

Usually, you know you’re doing a cardio workout when you’re breathing heavier than normal, but not so heavy that you can’t catch your breath.

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Benefits of Cardio

According to Mark Montalvo, a Certified Personal Trainer with more than 25 years experience in the fitness industry (and my husband), one of the primary benefits of cardio is to get your heart pumping.

He says, “Your heart’s a muscle and, like any muscle, you have to work it. The way to do that is by increasing your heart rate and putting a little bit of stress on it. One of the easiest ways to do that is to go for a walk, and what I mean is to intentionally set aside time, 15-20 minutes, to go for a walk that can increase your heart rate, so it’ll get you’re heart pumping.

It’s not just a stroll. You want to move with a purpose as if you’re trying to get somewhere in a hurry. Imagine that your bus is at the bus stop and you’re a block away and you’re trying to get there before the bus drives off – that’s the kind of pace your want to have, that hard walk. It’s in addition to the normal walking around you do every day.”

If you’re mostly sedentary now, going for a walk would be a good exercise activity to start because it’s accessible and doesn’t require expensive equipment.

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Risks of Cardio

Overuse/Impact related injuries – Repetitive, high impact activities can cause injury. As always, finding equipment, like a suitable pair of shoes, will go a long way in keeping you healthy and active.

No focus on building muscle (aside from the heart) – Cardio works the heart but doesn’t build other muscle groups, not directly anyway. Loss of muscle mass puts women at higher risk for osteoporosis, so it’s important to incorporate strength training with cardio activities.

I’ll be covering strength training and flexibility/balance/core workouts over the next two weeks.

Read Newsflash: Exercise is good for you! for a list of the research-based benefits of exercise.

As always, it’s important to check with your health care professional before starting an exercise program, especially if you’re under doctor’s care for a health condition.

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