Cardio, or cardiovascular, training involves engaging large muscle groups over a sustained period of time to increase heart rate and breathing, and thereby improve oxygen and blood flow throughout the body. Often referred to as “aerobic exercise,” it strengthens the heart and lungs, increases muscle endurance and stamina, and helps the body burn fat for energy. The benefits of a regular cardio workout extend beyond just the heart and lungs to improve overall health, mood, sleep, weight regulation and metabolism.
While the term cardio can refer to any type of exercise that elevates your heart rate, most people think of activities like running, biking, swimming, rowing and using a treadmill or elliptical at the gym. Walking, hiking, dancing, playing tennis and even gardening can also count as cardio exercise. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity heart-pumping exercise on most days of the week.
Getting started with cardio is easier than you may think. It doesn’t require any special equipment or gym membership, and it doesn’t have to take up a lot of your day. Small bursts of cardio (five to 10 minutes each) are just as effective as longer, more intense sessions.
Before you start your cardio workout, it’s important to warm up and stretch the muscles that will be used for the duration of the activity. After you finish your cardio workout, a cool-down is usually recommended to stretch the muscles again and prepare them for rest.
There are many different types of cardio exercises, but all should involve moving the large muscle groups of your legs and chest. It’s recommended that you try to include a combination of long slow-paced, high impact and interval cardio exercise for optimal fitness results.
Aim for three 45-minute cardio sessions a week, but keep in mind that these sessions are only part of your total weekly workout. You should include other exercise types, such as strength, functional and plyometrics, to maximize muscle adaptations and overall health benefits.
When done properly, cardio can also help you get better sleep and boost your immune system. The reason is because it decreases stress hormones and increases melatonin, which promotes deeper, more restful sleep. It also improves blood sugar regulation and decreases insulin resistance, which can help you manage Type 2 diabetes.
Cardio can also reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, and it helps lower blood cholesterol and fats that contribute to clots and plaque in the arteries. It can also help with digestion and reduce the risk of certain cancers, including colon cancer and breast cancer.
However, higher levels of cardio can elicit an excessive cortisol response and cause protein loss from muscle, which could impede strength gains for those who are trying to maximize muscle mass. For this reason, it’s not recommended to do intense cardio on a regular basis if you’re trying to build muscle. If you do, it’s best to limit your cardio to two or three shorter, moderate-intensity workouts per week, with the remainder of your exercise sessions being focused on other training methods, such as strength and plyometrics. Konditionsträning