What is cardio?
Cardio exercise is any exercise that raises both your heart rate and your breathing rate. It also challenges your cardiovascular system, helping to improve the function of your heart, your circulatory system, and your lungs. As a general goal, you should be aiming to either 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity cardio exercise (30 minutes, 5 times a week), or 75 minutes a week of high intensity, vigorous cardio exercise (25 minutes, 3 times a week).
What are the benefits?
- As is obvious from the name, cardio exercise has amazing benefits for the cardiovascular system. Cardio helps to strengthen the heart so it can efficiently pump blood through your body. This can help to reduce the likelihood of heart disease. Cardio also helps to lower blood pressure, increase ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL), and lower ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL). It is essential in looking after your heart health.
- Cardio also helps to strengthen your lungs and improve your lung capacity. Looking after your lungs is important for everyone, but this especially benefits those with asthma, as cardio helps to reduce the symptoms of asthma.
- Cardio helps you to regulate your weight. You burn many calories while doing cardio exercise, which when paired with a healthy diet, allows you to lose weight when needed. You are then able to maintain your weight when you have reached a healthy weight. Maintaining a healthy weight is important for your general health, but also for supporting your joints, as excess weight can place a lot of extra stress on your joints.
- Cardio helps you to regulate your insulin level and lower your blood sugar levels. This is important for everyone, but this particularly benefits those with type 2 diabetes.
- Cardio exercise improves sleep quality and duration, which helps improve your energy levels when you are awake during the day. Not only does it improve energy levels but cardio exercise also helps to boost your mood, allowing you to feel much better during your day to day life.
- Cardio exercise has been shown to reduce falls in the elderly population. This is extremely important as falls can cause serious injuries that can affect the quality of life of older adults.
What are some types of cardio exercise?
There are many different ways you can get your heart and your breathing rate up. Changing up your exercise routine can ensure you stay excited and motivated about exercise, rather than getting bored of doing the same thing over and over. Here are some ideas for different ways you can get a good cardio workout.
- Running: probably the most obvious exercise, is a super easy way to get your heart and breathing rate up. The best part about going for a run outside is that it is free! You may also choose to run on a treadmill if that’s what you prefer. Entering in a running event is a great way to stay interested. This can be because you are more motivated as you train for your event.
- Swimming: swimming is an excellent form of exercise as it is extremely low impact and places very little stress on your joints. Swimming is especially good for improving lung capacity.
- Skipping: a skipping rope is a great piece of equipment to have as it is a very easy way to get your heart and breathing rate up, and can be done almost any where as you don’t need much room to skip.
- Dance: dancing is an extremely fun way to get your cardio exercise in, you may not even realise you are exercising! You could go to a dance class, or just put on some music and dance around for 30 minutes.
- Trampoline: another extremely fun way to get in your cardio exercise. If you don’t know anyone with a trampoline you could buy your own mini trampoline, as these take up very little space. You could also go to a trampoline park with some friends. Exercise and socialise at the same time!
- Sports: team sports are a great form of cardio exercise, and there are so many different options. You could play soccer, basketball, rugby, netball, volleyball, waterpolo, the list goes on. Joining a social team is a great way to stay fit and also meet new people.