What is cardio?
Cardiovascular, shortened to cardio, is a term used to describe the circulatory system that consists of the blood vessels and heart within the body.
When you “do cardio”, you are completing an exercise that raises your heart rate and helps to strengthen this network, while also increasing your metabolic rate. Your metabolic rate pertains to your metabolism which is the complex structure of chemical processes in the body that are needed to sustain life. Therefore, metabolism refers to how your body breaks down and uses certain substances for energy. When you exercise, you need more energy and therefore your metabolic rate (the rate at which your body breaks down said substances) is increased.
When you have a strong cardiovascular system, it means that you have more capillaries bringing in more oxygen to your muscle cells. When this happens, your body is able to burn more fat when you are active (exercising) and also continues to burn fat even when you are inactive (at rest).
In simple terms, cardio is endurance exercise that increases your heart rate and results in more blood being pumped throughout your body. If your heart rate reaches 50-75% of its maximum rate, this can be classified as a cardiovascular exercise. To give you an idea of how to calculate an estimate of what your maximum heart rate should be, start with the number 220 and minus your age. So, for example, if you are 25 years old, this will be worked out as follows:
220 – 25 = 195 beats per minute should be your maximum heart rate. Going above this may result in heart issues.
This is not intended to serve as an absolute figure or accurate calculation for everyone because there are also a number of contributing factors such as blood pressure and any pre-existing health concerns that need to be taken into consideration when ascertaining how far to push your body when exercising. However, the above formula does help you to get an idea of what your maximum heart rate should be and is, therefore, a good guideline for generally healthy individuals.
It is a common misconception that cardio is merely running, walking or cycling. In fact, any exercise that increases your heart rate whilst utilising large muscle movements over a sustained time period can be classified as cardio.
There are a number of reasons why cardio is so good for you, and a few reasons why too much of it can be detrimental. Some people believe that cardio does not build muscle and try to avoid it at all costs unless they feel the need to cut down on fat and lose weight, and others only perform cardio exercises when working out.
The cardio debate is one that has been going on in gyms and fitness studios since the first stride was taken on an elliptical. It is because of this that the following article unpacks and explores the many sides to cardio, its pros, cons and more. So, if you are looking for an end to the so-called never-ending argument, then put down the weights, step off the treadmill and take a read. We have done our research, we have asked the right questions and now we have the answer...
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