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I started a cardio exercise routine quite by accident. Literally — it was a result of my car breaking down. However, that’s a story for another day. But I’ll never regret it. My health has improved, I’m happier, and life just seems to be better than before. Maybe it’s just me, but there’s definitely something to getting into a cardio exercise routine that you’re missing out on if you haven’t started already.
If there’s one thing everyone agrees on, it’s the importance of having a healthy body. That’s why establishing a cardio exercise routine should be a priority for every human being. While many make the mistake of thinking that any type of exercise is beneficial, there’s a way to maximize what you get out of a regimen. And that’s by gaining in-depth knowledge of that routine.
What Are Cardio Exercises?
Although the term may sound like some difficult exercise only gym rats can handle, cardio exercises are quite simple to understand. And they are also simple to do. So, what are they?
Cardio exercise is short for cardiovascular exercise, also called aerobic exercise. These include any type of activity that raises your heart rate and increases blood circulation. No, shouting at your neighbor for the mess his dog has left is not a cardio exercise. Sure, it may raise your heart rate, but it lacks one important factor. What makes cardio exercises different is it also involves working out the larger muscles in your body, including your heart.
Our bodies were designed for activity. To keep them in good shape, we have to ensure that the muscles responsible for those activities are well exercised. And that, my friend, is why you need cardio exercises. And because cardio exercise causes an increase in heart rate, it means you’re working your whole cardiovascular system, which is responsible for transporting blood to your body. That on its own leads to a healthy body as the blood is responsible for supplying needed oxygen and nutrients to the body.
Understanding target heart rate zone (and why it’s important to your cardio exercise routine)
It’s impossible to talk about cardio exercises without mentioning the target heart rate zone. You could say it’s the heart of every cardio exercise routine.
An effective cardio exercise routine depends on three main factors: frequency, duration, and intensity. Frequency (how often) and duration (how long) are easy to track. Intensity (how hard you push yourself) is a function of your heart rate, so it can be a tricky one to nail down. That is where your target heart rate zone comes into play.
As you work out, you need to pace yourself in such a way that your heart rate increases but remains within the limits of your target heart rate zone. This zone lies between 70 to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate. You calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 225.
Low Impact vs. High Impact Cardio — What You Need to Know
When it comes to your cardio exercise routine, you will have to understand the difference between low-impact and high-impact cardio exercises. Each type has its merits and demerits, so understanding them will help you know which you need to incorporate into your routine.
Low-impact cardio exercises are those you perform with one (or zero) leg planted on the ground. These exercises result in the body being subject to less (or no) impact. They include but are not limited to walking, most dance aerobics, swimming, and yoga.
Low-impact exercises are good for improving flexibility and are also helpful for people undergoing rehabilitation for injuries. Other people who can benefit from low-impact exercises are pregnant women and other groups who are unable to place too much stress on their joints.
While low-impact exercises are beneficial to all, regarding cardio, they have one major drawback in that it’s difficult to reach your target heart rate zone.
With high-impact exercises, both feet leave the ground, which translates to more impact on the body as well as increased intensity. Examples of high-impact exercises include running, skipping, jumping jacks, and plyometrics.
High-impact exercises have the advantage of helping you reach your target heart rate zone faster. This exercise type is best for people who have a baseline of fitness and have a lower risk of joint injuries.
What is the best type of cardio exercise?
While both high and low-impact have their pros and cons, the bottom line is that they’re both beneficial. That means you need to incorporate both into your cardio exercise routine. One great way to do this is by taking up Crossfit training as it incorporates both in a single session.
Examples of some cardio exercises
You might think cardio only involves running or walking, but that’s not so. There are a whole host of exercises considered cardiovascular, including lifting weights. Here are some common exercises that you can incorporate into your cardio exercise routine:
- High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
- Climbing stairs
- Jumping rope
Again, the common thread with all these is that they put the heart to work by increasing the rate at which it beats. And because heart rate is different from person to person, the amount of cardio exercises beneficial to an individual is unique. That’s why you will need to find and work within your target heart rate zones.
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Why Is a Cardio Exercise Routine Important?
Now that you know what constitutes cardio exercise, you now have to take action and establish a cardio exercise routine. Here are three good reasons why this is important.
Conditions your body
If there’s one thing your body thrives on, it’s routine. By establishing a cardio exercise routine, you condition your body to be more resilient and resistant to fatigue. I don’t know about you, but that’s a great benefit, not just for your exercise regimen, but for your daily life as well. In short, your body becomes used to higher levels of activity, allowing you to get more done in a day than the average person.
Increases your efficiency
A good cardio exercise routine is also a great way of increasing your body’s efficiency. That is because this type of exercise improves the health of your heart and your capillaries, thus leading to your body receiving a good supply of nutrients and the efficient removal of waste. By so doing, every organ in your body is optimized to perform at its best, thus making you a highly efficient machine.
While routine is good for the body, the body usually fights it. And yet this is where a cardio exercise routine is beneficial for you. By sticking to your routine, you help develop strong willpower that will enable you to push beyond your limits. Willpower is a strong pillar of success in every area of life.
9 Important Benefits of Having a Cardio Exercise Routine
As with most exercise types, cardio exercises have many benefits that every human being needs. While the list of these benefits is too long to enumerate in a single post, we’ll take a look at nine of the most commonly sought after.
1. Weight loss
If you want an effective way of losing weight, include a good cardio exercise routine in your weight loss system. Cardio exercises help the body burn fat faster. By getting into your target heart rate zone, your muscles start working harder, thus demanding more energy. Your heart responds by pumping blood faster, thus supplying the body with enough oxygen to help in the process of burning calories to produce the energy that is required. The result is that you lose weight faster.
2. Muscle gain
Although the benefits of cardio exercises on muscle building have been a cause for heated debates the world over, a good cardio exercise routine helps in muscle building. For one, cardio exercises help your cardiovascular system operate at optimum levels. That means your muscle cells get a richer supply of oxygen and other necessities that aid in muscle growth. Oxygen and nutrients are transported quickly and the removal of metabolic waste is faster.
Another great advantage that cardio exercise brings to your bodybuilding strategy is that it improves your stamina and improves your recovery time after an intense session at the gym. The result is that you can work out more often, and even increase the intensity of your training.
3. Improves general health
Every part of the body depends on your blood for its good health. And this is why having a cardio exercise routine helps improve your general health. Because cardio strengthens the heart and increases capillary density, the body receives the optimum supply of nutrients it requires to be in top form. Not only that, but there will also be a greater level of white blood cells, which improves your body’s defense system against sickness and disease.
But fending off sickness isn’t the only benefit you get from maintaining a cardio exercise routine. The improved blood circulation also gives you healthier skin, improves lung capacity, and helps maintain sugar and cholesterol levels in your body.
In short, your general health is dependent on how strong your cardiovascular system is. In turn, your cardiovascular system is dependent on your cardio exercise routine.
4. Helps you sleep better
Apart from a good cardiovascular system, a healthy body also depends on having a good sleep pattern. And good sleep is not just a matter of managing to keep your eyes closed for six to eight hours. Good sleep is a function of being able to enter the rapid eye movement phase of sleep, and cardiovascular exercises help achieve that. But be warned, don’t exercise immediately before going to bed as this will have the opposite effect. Your body will be energized and stimulated, resulting in a delayed transition to sleep.
5. Improves your sex life
No one wants to be a poor performer in bed. And one good way to stay on top of the game is by having a cardio exercise routine. In men, cardio exercises reduce the chance of erectile dysfunction and improve the ability to maintain an erection. In women, it increases arousal. The reason is proper blood flow. So, if your sex life features a drizzle instead of a sizzle, give cardio exercises a try.
6. Improves brain function
Studies have revealed that cardio exercises help with improved memory and other brain functions. That is a result of it triggering the release of growth factors (chemicals that promote the health of brain cells) and reducing inflammation. That means there’s a reduction in the rate of brain degradation and an increase in the rate at which critical cells are replaced, leading to improved memory and the ability to learn new things.
7. Helps you become disciplined in other areas of life
Maintaining a cardio exercise routine is not only beneficial to your body, but it’s also beneficial to your entire life. By maintaining a routine, you become disciplined in every other area of your life. And discipline is one of the main ingredients of success.
8. Boosts your energy levels
It may sound like an oxymoron, but cardio exercises help boost your energy levels. Your body releases endorphins when you exercise. Endorphins are the hormones responsible for giving us a boost in energy. That’s why it’s advisable to exercise early in the morning to set the pace for the day. Your increased energy levels will help you achieve more and feel good too.
9. Improves emotional stability
Cardio exercises can help you maintain emotional stability. As mentioned, a good cardio workout triggers the release of endorphins, the feel-good hormones. Besides the release of endorphins, cardio exercises also promote neural growth and reduces inflammation in the brain, which helps in reducing anxiety and feelings of stress.
Tips on Building a Cardio Exercise Routine
Now that you’ve seen the need for cardio exercises, you’re probably wondering how you can build your own cardio exercise routine. The good news is that it’s not complicated. Here are a few tips on how you can choose the best exercises for you:
- Choose exercises you enjoy
- Be flexible and willing to experiment with exercise types
- Keep it simple and basic
- Do something you can manage to do at least 30 minutes, 3 times a week
Remember, cardio exercises are simply about raising your heart rate and blood flow using major muscle groups. That makes establishing your cardio exercise easy, as you can do anything, anywhere — as long as it gets your heart pumping. That means you can opt for swimming, walking, running, tennis, Zumba, and many other activities.
How to choose your exercises
The first step is to consider all the options accessible to you. For example, you can’t consider swimming if there’s no pool nearby. Next, decide which ones you love the most. Picking something you enjoy will help you maintain your focus and commitment.
Something else you’ll have to consider is the location of your cardio exercise routine. Would you rather do it at home or at the gym? While the gym offers more options and also has other people around, you can do your cardio exercises at home as well. If you need the company, a good workout video can go a long way in bringing the gym-like atmosphere into your home or invite a friend over.
The Best Time to Establish a Cardio Exercise Routine Is Now
You’re almost ready to start your cardio exercise routine. You’re only missing the when, and there’s no better time to start than now. So go ahead, take the first steps towards establishing a fruitful cardio exercise routine to get your heart pumping. The first step is usually the most difficult, but as Nike says, just do it.