Cardiovascular exercise brings with it a whole range of benefits for your bod. Some might think of cardio workouts as ‘tough’ exercises where we work up a sweat, quickly run out of breath and wear ourselves out. It’s not all true when you choose the right style and intensity of cardio activities that work for you. Sure, we want to raise the heart rate (safely) and increase oxygen intake but it doesn’t need to be in a “no pain, no gain” kind of way.
We need cardio fitness for all movements; from taking the stairs, to enjoying a cycle or game of sport, chasing the kids or walking the dog. When we nurture our cardio health and build endurance, our general day-to-day becomes easier, we have more energy, stamina and are less prone to getting tired during the day.
Beautiful Benefits of Cardio
With regular cardio activity your heart, lungs and blood vessels become more efficient at delivering quantities of oxygen throughout your body to your working muscles. This refreshes the system and can leave you feeling energised and revitalised. Kick those 3pm yawns to the kerb with some cardio.
Cardio is very good for your heart
- Decrease blood pressure
- Increase efficiency
- Prevent the buildup of cholesterol – thus helping to prevent heart disease
Your muscles’ best friend
- A happy raised heart rate delivers more oxygen and blood to our muscles. The more goodness your muscles are given, the more they can work, and the more strength they gain. This is what helps us gradually increase activity levels as we get stronger
- Keep busy and clean the body’s highways that deliver oxygen, blood and nutrients. This helps all muscles and organs function better and protect your nervous system
Loves your lungs
- Similar to the heart, a workout also helps strengthen your lungs and prevent breathing related conditions. From working up the stairs to an intense HIIT workout, we need our lungs functioning well
Brain food for mental wellbeing
- Your brain can’t get enough of cardio. Releasing all those mind and body-loving neurochemicals such as dopamine, serotonin and endocannabinoids produces feelings of happiness, pain relief, relaxation, even elation!
- Reduce symptoms of depression
- Calm the effects of anxiety
- Better manage stress
- Get a better sleep
- Improve confidence, and feel generally good about yourself
- Improve memory and cognitive function
Aid and maintain weight loss
- Increase metabolism speed and efficiency
- Burn more calories
- Convert fat stores to energy
The role of cardio in fat burning and weight loss
Maintaining a healthy weight is integral to injury and disease prevention, and a long happy life; but sometimes it isn’t easy. Weight loss is the #1 reason given to Personal Trainers when new or returning Members enlist their expertise. What is SUPER important to us at ifeelgood however, is that the goal is to really enjoy exercise for good health and wellbeing, rather than focus solely on the scales.
Especially if you’re starting out or making a fitness comeback, when you find the “fun factor” in your activities you’ll do more of it. The weight will come off naturally, at a pace that is right for you.
It might pay to seek advice from the pro’s on what fat-melting cardio exercises are best for you at your current fitness level, and heart rate zone. Get with a made-for-you program that you love!
Types of Cardio Exercise
As long as it raises your heart rate and accelerates your breathing, you’re doing cardio! What’s great is that you’re not forced to go to the gym, for every session. You can get in a good cardio workout at home, or in the great outdoors.
Out and About
- Power-walking or running
- Cycling or swimming
- Lunges, squats, push ups and burpees
- Hiking, canoeing or skiing
- Dancing or organised sports
At the Gym
- Jump rope or treadmill
- Bike or rowing machines
- Strength circuits
- Aerobics classes
- Boxing classes
- HIIT (high intensity interval training)
- LISS (low intensity steady state)
And so much more…use your imagination and get moving!
How often should I do cardio workouts?
Honestly? As often as you can. And if that means just once or twice per week to start with then that’s a good start! The department of health advises that we’re active on most, if not all days of the week.
- 2.5 – 5hrs of moderate physical activity, and
- 1.5 – 2.5hrs of vigorous intensity physical activity per week.
If that sounds like a lot, just start from where you are. Perhaps you can add a little stair walking rather than the lift, or a brisk walk. If you’re working from home, take a quick jump rope or jog break.
Where should I start?
If you’re a beginner to exercise or just starting to get back on track, it’s best to begin with moderate intensity cardio so you can exercise for longer periods of time. This helps you improve your aerobic capacity (how well you use oxygen) and lets you focus on enjoying your cardio activities.
Example exercises to get cracking with cardio
First, discover your ideal heart rate range for cardio training. Our team or your personal trainer can help you with this, and to develop a program just for you.
- Calculate your maximum heart rate (MHR) by deducting your age from 220 beats/minute
- During moderate intensity exercise your target heart rate (THR) should be 50 – 69% of your MHR
- During vigorous intensity workouts your target heart rate (THR) should hit 70-85%
Here’s a handy little target heart rate calculator by Bupa.
Try this beginner treadmill cardio workout – speed pyramid progression.
1min 3kmph | 1min 3.5kmph | 1min 4kmph | 1min 4.5kmph | 1min 5kmph
With progression cardio exercises you simply up the ante once you’re comfortable and hitting your THR’s.
- For a longer workout, add an extra minute per session, increasing by 0.5kmph
Or to increase intensity, try adding 0.5km/hr to each minute eg start at 1min and 3.5kmph
Advanced rowing machine cardio workout – speed pyramid progression.
- Start with 1km distance in under 4 mins 30 secs
- Progress to 500m distance in under 1 mins 45 secs
Remember above all else to have fun!
As you’re getting back on track, remember to always warm up and down before and after exercise.
You may feel a little sore the next day, that’s totally normal – it means your muscles are working! The dreaded DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) will subside in a day or two and as your fitness improves, you should only experience DOMS when you introduce new exercises that work your muscles in different ways.
Nourish your body with healthy meals, keep up the good fluids and make sure you get a restful night’s sleep. Prevention is the best medicine.
Now, get out there and cardio, and have a ball doing it!