What is “cardio”?
Cardio training is shortened from cardiovascular, which tells us that it’s any kind of exercise that’s primarily good for the heart. It’s also called aerobic (“with oxygen”) exercise, because it’s done at a moderate intensity that puts demands on the aerobic energy-generating processes of the body.
Put simply, “cardio” is any activity that gets the heart rate up, causes you to breathe a bit heavier, and can be sustained for more than a few minutes. It’s also a great way to develop a truly active, healthy lifestyle and enjoy the benefits with people you care about!
13 examples of cardio that might surprise you
What do you think of when I say cardio workouts? Probably going for a run, or a bike ride. Those are examples. But cardio is so much more than running.
- Team sports
- Dancing or dance workouts
- Jump rope/skipping rope
- Rollerblading or skating
- Fast walking
- Racket sports
- Kayaking on the Thames
- Heavy DIY or gardening
Big benefits of cardio (that aren’t weight loss)
1. Burns calories – One of the most obvious benefits of cardio is burning calories, which will help you lose weight if your nutrition is in check. But there are so many more reasons to do it (the biggest clue is in the name – heart health).
2. Can lower blood pressure – regular aerobic exercise lowers blood pressure which brings its own host of short term and long term health benefits
3. Regulates your blood sugar – cardio workouts regulate blood sugar, which is important even if you don’t have diabetes. One more reason to take a walk after meals.
4. Reduces risk of serious health issues – cardio training reduces your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers
5. Supports healthy immune system – cardio workouts (and all exercise) boosts your body’s natural immune system and therefore helps keep you healthier and less stressed
6. A great stress buster – cardio workouts are a great stress reliever in themselves, partly because they involve focusing on yourself and your healthy goals for a decent period of time
7. Gives you time for yourself – if you struggle to find time for yourself, heading for a swim, run, or social sport is a wonderful way to rebalance the wheel
8. Can be social – emotional health is a huge part of a healthy lifestyle, and cardio workouts lend themselves very well to being social, whether that’s as a team sport, racket sports, or a social jog/walk/bike with a friend
9. Improves your sleep – regular cardio improves sleep quality and duration thanks to the positive impact it has on your health, stress, mood, and energy levels
How much cardio do you need?
Ah, the million dollar question. The NHS recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week, which might realistically look like 5 x 30 minutes or 3 x 45 minutes plus 1 x 15 minute session every week.
I don’t think strict rules are very useful. Instead, I’d encourage you to look at your current lifestyle and activity levels. If your job is sedentary and you rarely get out for a walk, start by increasing your daily step count. Then add in 1-3 dedicated cardio sessions a week. Your cardio approach should be as individual as the rest of your routine.
How to fit cardio into your routine
How much activity do you get? If your days are sedentary, start by adding 1-2 walks into your day. Aim for 7,000 steps minimum.
When can you spare the time? If your week days are ridiculously busy, use weekends for outdoor cardio or friend and family activities that tick the box. If you can fit in 20-45 minutes on some week days, do that.
What kind of activity do you want to do? Take a look at the list I posted and think outside the box. Cardio does not have to mean going for a run (unless you want to). Do you love sports? Check out local teams and head along to a trial session, or look at court/pitch times at the sports centre. If you like to do outdoor sport, take light and weather into account. If all else fails, fast walking is a great form of cardio that can be done in all but the most volatile of British weather!
Drop me a message to talk about how my fitness and lifestyle coaching can help you create a routine that works for you.
‘The number one rated Personal Trainer In Henley and Oxfordshire’