Even if you’re not a fitness junkie, you probably know what cardio is.
Running, jogging, riding a bike – all those things we think of when we hear the word cardio. But, cardiovascular exercises or cardio is much more than just running or riding a bike.
Lately, it hasn’t been much adored because so many people choose resistance training over cardio believing it is better or more effective.
But, the truth is, cardiovascular training can’t be replaced with resistance or any other kind of training. You will get the best results when combining the two, actually.
Benefits of cardio exercises
Cardiovascular exercises have numerous health benefits. Some of them are:
- Helps with the prevention of heart diseases
- Lowers the blood pressure
- Helps regulate blood sugar
- Strengthen your heart and lungs
- Increasing bone density
- Reduces stress and helps against anxiety and depression
- Improves sleep
- Boosts your energy and improve your mood
- Help on your weight loss journey
Most people start working out because they want to lose weight. Cardiovascular exercises will not only help with weight loss, but they will also improve your overall health and your quality of life.
People need movement and exercises. Sitting all day at work is not natural to the human body.
Cardio exercises are a great way to move your body after work, strengthen your heart and lungs, improve blood flow and circulation and prevent possible cardiovascular diseases that are killing so many people around the world.
How to do cardio exercises for health improvement
As I said before, cardiovascular exercises have many health benefits and it is recommended to do some sort of cardio exercises three times a week for the prevention of cardiovascular and heart diseases and improving your health.
This doesn’t have to be anything serious. Everyone can do cardio exercises, you don’t need the gym or special equipment.
Here are some ideas:
- Jogging three times a week is a perfect cardio exercise for your overall health and fitness, it will improve your health and help you look better.
- Start walking – walking is great for beginners and people who can’t run, you still get all the benefits of cardiovascular exercise and you can decide what is the best tempo for your level. Start with light walks and when you are ready, make a move towards more challenging power walks
- Ride a bike – if you are not the type for jogging take your bike instead. You can opt to use your bike for commute too. This way you are saving money, time and improving your health.
- Swimming – is a great way of cardiovascular exercise if you are not a big fan of outdoor activities
- Enrol in a class – you can find amazing classes that can help you get all the benefits of cardiovascular exercise in a fun environment. Try step fitness or take a Zumba class if you enjoy music or choose a spin class and burn some serious calories
Whatever type of exercises you choose, be careful to choose the one you enjoy the most. This way you’ll enjoy your exercise program and this will probably motivate you more to continue with it.
Start small and light and build your way towards more challenging things. Most importantly, enjoy every step of the way.
How to use cardio exercises for weight loss?
Cardiovascular exercises are a must if you want to lose weight.
If you want to get the best results, make sure to combine cardio with strength training. Cardio is helping you burn more fat while you build muscles with strength training.
Here are different ways to do cardio for weight loss.
Steady-state or moderate-intensity cardio is the thing we are used to when talking about cardiovascular exercises.
These are exercises we are doing with moderate intensity throughout the exercise. This would be jogging or running on a treadmill, rowing machine, swimming or walking.
Steady-state cardio has many health benefits:
- Improves health – cardiovascular health lowers blood pressure, reduces anxiety and depression, makes your heart more efficient and helps you lose weight.
- Less stress on your body – because you work at a lower intensity, your body is not under so much stress and you are still improving your endurance and getting the benefits
- Helps you build endurance – longer and slower exercises help you build endurance in your heart and muscles
- Your recovery is faster – because you put less stress on your body, your next workout will be much easier
- Your burn fat in a more enjoyable way – this is an enjoyable way to do cardio, and your body still burns fats and getting better in it. When you workout on a lower intensity, fat is the main fuel source. Staying at that level allows you to save glycogen stores for higher intensity workouts.
There are some things that are not great doing steady-state cardio like the fact it can feel boring after some time and that after some time you can hit a plateau if you don’t change anything in your routine. That is why it’s important to add other kinds of exercises too in your workout program.
Steady-state cardio is best for:
- Anyone who can’t or is not permitted to work out at a very high intensity
- Someone training for endurance purposes like training for the marathon or half marathon
- Anyone who doesn’t like high-intensity workouts
High-intensity interval training or HIIT
HIIT training involves working out in intervals of high and moderate intensity. You’ll do an interval of high-intensity exercises pushing way beyond your comfort zone followed by a recovery period of moderate-intensity exercises which is usually shorter or the same as a high-intensity interval.
You’ll repeat the intervals for 15 to 45 minutes depending on desired results.
This kind of exercise is ideal for:
- Faster results and a greater calorie burn – you’ll burn more calories doing HIIT. The harder you work during your workout, the more calories you’ll burn hours after the workout. This means you’ll get results much faster than with usual cardio exercises.
- Someone who wants to shed the last few pounds of stubborn fat, and it is especially useful in shedding belly fat.
- Someone limited with time – you can get amazing results in a shorter period of time, you don’t need more than 20 minutes for an effective workout
- Overall health and improved performance – HIIT workouts stimulate both aerobic and anaerobic systems. That means better stamina and improvement on all your workouts. It also improves your health, lowers blood pressure and regulates blood sugar.
HIIT exercises are a great way of getting great results and improving your health and performance, but they are not for everyone.
- HIIT is not ideal for beginners. You should build a solid foundation with other cardiovascular exercises before heading to high-intensity exercises.
- There is a greater risk of injuries while doing HIIT exercises. This is because they include exercises like sprints or jumps and can result in injury if your body is not ready for this kind of exercises.
- You shouldn’t do too much HIIT training. Too much can leave you sore and fatigued. For optimal results and to prevent overtraining, don’t do more than 2 longer HIIT sessions or 3 shorter.
Combine both steady-state cardio and HIIT for best results
For the best results, you can combine both steady-state cardio and high-intensity exercises.
If you are just beginning, start with steady-state cardio until you build up your endurance and then slowly incorporate HIIT into your training.
Do 2 sessions of HIIT per week with at least 2 sessions of steady-state cardio per week.
Remember, both steady-state cardio and HIIT training should be only additional exercises to your strength training program.
With this combination of training and with proper diet, you can have amazing results.