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Your heart beats quicker. You can breathe faster and more deeply. You also sweat more. This is probably due to the fact that you have been working your large muscles in your hips, legs, and arms for a long time. These major muscles are required to exercise and produce more energy. This leads to increased heart rate and breathing, which in turn means that more oxygen is required. Cardiovascular exercise, or cardio, is a type of cardiovascular activity.

What is cardio exercise?

 Also known as endurance or aerobic exercise, cardiovascular exercise refers to any activity that utilizes aerobic metabolism. This means that oxygen is involved in the cellular reactions necessary to produce energy. To maximize oxygen levels and make it more efficient, your heart rate and breathing depth increase. You feel more energetic and don't get tired as quickly.

Cardiovascular exercise refers to any activity that raises heart rate, respiration, oxygen and blood flow. It involves using large muscle groups repetitively and rhythmically. This activity gradually challenges your most important internal organs and improves performance and function of the heart, lungs, and circulatory system. Cardio improves your health in many ways, including heart health and mental health as well as weight regulation, metabolism, and mood.

The heart actually becomes more efficient as it pumps oxygen-carrying oxygen. This makes the lungs more efficient in taking in oxygen and the muscles more able to use oxygen. The heart rate and breathing should increase but not so much that it makes you feel like you have to stop and rest. If you feel the need to rest or have unusual symptoms or a strong urge, you should immediately seek medical attention.

For an exercise to be considered cardio it must increase your heart rate and respiration to moderate to vigorous intensity (at least 50% of the normal rate) for at least 10 minutes. Activities that are designed to increase strength such as resistance training, weight lifting, weight-lifting, and core exercises, are not considered cardio. They do not elevate the heart rate during the exercise period.

What are the most popular cardiovascular exercises?

  • Walking at a moderate pace
  • Running
  • Jogging/jogging at a place
  • Burpees
  • Bear crawls
  • Swimming
  • Water aerobics
  • Cycling/bicycling
  • Dancing
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Racquetball, basketball, soccer, and Volleyball for Race-Walking
  • Rowing
  • Kayaking, paddling and canoeing
  • Circuit training
  • Jumping rope
  • Stair climbing
  • In-line skating
  • Martial arts
  • Golfing
  • Hiking
  • HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training).
  • Mountain climbing
  • Jumping jacks, squat jumps, split jumps
  • Roller blading
  • Kickboxing

These machines are the most commonly used for cardio exercises.

  • Treadmill
  • Stepping machine
  • Stationary cycles
  • Ski trainer
  • Rowing machine
  • Trainer for the elliptical
  • Recumbent bike
  • Bicycles that are upright
  • Stair climber
  • Upper body ergometer
  • Wave-trainer
  • Versa-climber
  • Precor AMT

What are the main categories of cardiovascular exercise?

Broadly, cardiovascular exercise can be classified into three categories–high-impact cardio, low-impact cardio and no-impact cardio.

High-impact cardio

High-impact cardio is any cardiovascular activity in which both feet are off the ground during an activity is considered high-impact cardio. Because you are supporting your body weight using your limbs against gravity, it is also known as a weight-bearing activity. You can do it by jumping rope, aerobic dancing, or other forms of strength training.

Low-impact cardio

Any cardiovascular activity that requires one foot to remain on the ground at all time. Low-impact cardio is not to be confused with low intensity cardio. Many low-impact activities have high intensity. Low-impact cardio can still be weight-bearing and is good for conditioning the heart and lungs. Walking, hiking, and aerobic dancing are all examples of low-impact cardio.

No-impact cardio

Cardiovascular exercise that is done in water is considered no-impact. This is because the water pulls gravity away from the body. Swimming and water aerobics can be considered no-impact cardio exercises. Bicycling can also be a low-impact cardio activity because the frame and tires of the bike hold most of your body weight. Aquatic exercise and cycling are great for those with an arthritic condition.

Why is cardiovascular exercise important?

Cardio exercises use large muscles to move over a prolonged period of time. This keeps your heart rate at least 50% of its maximum. Regular aerobic exercise will improve your cardiovascular system. You'll have more capillaries, which deliver more oxygen to your cells. With each session, you will experience an increase in stamina as well as endurance.

Cardio exercise has many benefits, including:

Better heart health

Cardiovascular exercise can help you build muscles and control blood pressure. It also helps you manage your diabetes and blood sugar.

Improved brain health

Regular cardio can increase the size or volume of brain regions that control memory and thinking skills. Regular cardiovascular activity can also help to reduce the rate at which older adults' brains shrink, which improves cognitive function. Cardio can help you get a good night of sleep which is important for your mental health.

Higher metabolic rate

All cardio increases metabolism by the production Fibroblast Growth Factor 21, (FGF21), hormone. This hormone suppresses appetite, and causes more calories burn.

Weight regulation

Cardio helps you lose excess calories and control your weight by increasing your heart rate to the target zone. Walking, swimming, running, and jogging all burn extra calories. Cardio sessions that are moderately intense burn a lot of calories. Jumping rope, running stairs and rowing are all cardio exercises that can help you lose weight.

Improved mood, energy

Cardiovascular exercise triggers increased secretion of endorphins–neurochemicals that cause a feeling of euphoria. Dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine are also increased by cardio. You will feel more energetic and ready to do your daily activities. The increased hormone release can reduce stress, increase stamina and energy, as well as improve memory and mental focus.

Stronger immune system

Regular exercise can increase the production of antibodies and white cells which will improve your body's ability fight infection. FGF21 is also released, which increases metabolism and improves the immune system. Cardio protects against many illnesses such as hypertension, stroke, osteoporosis and heart disease.

Management for arthritis

Cardiovascular exercise can help reduce arthritis pain and stiffness by moving the joints.

What should you do to make cardiovascular exercise more enjoyable?

Cardio exercise should be done at least three times per week to reap the maximum benefits. If you have more time on weekends, schedule the first two days of cardio activity to be on Saturday and Sunday. Then, look for another day in the middle. You don't need to do all your exercise on weekdays. However, if you are able to fit them in your schedule, you should.

Cardiovascular exercise does not require large blocks of time. Cardio is best done in short sessions of 5 minutes each. As long as the intensity and total workout time are equal, they are equally effective. Twelve 5-minute sessions of cardio with high intensity are as effective as one 60-minute session. Cardio is an excellent choice if you have a tight schedule. Aerobic exercises can be done without the need for special equipment or a gym membership.

It is best to begin with activities that are low-to-moderate in intensity for beginners, such as walking and bicycling, swimming, dancing or jogging. You will be able to continue doing them for longer periods of time, and you will reap the health benefits. You should choose activities that you like so that you can keep up with them.

It is better to increase intensity over time rather than increase volume or length of an exercise. Cardio should not be overdone. Spending hours at a slow-to-moderate pace will not bring you any additional benefits. After you have been able to complete 30-45 minutes of an exercise 3-4 times per week, it is time to move on to the advanced principles.

These are the fundamental guidelines to a successful cardiovascular exercise

Slowly start

Start small. Start with a 5 minute walk in the morning and a 5 minute walk in the afternoon. You can gradually increase your pace and add time. You will soon be able to comfortably walk for 30 minutes per day. Start by identifying activities that are interesting to you, and that you can do with minimal time or financial constraints. There are many options for running, hiking, biking, running, rowing and rowing. It is any activity that increases the heart rate and breathing.

Warm up

Begin each session by taking 5-10 minutes to warm up and increase blood flow. Warming up is when you do lower intensity versions of the cardio activity that you are planning to do. Warming up can be done by slow walking if you plan to do a brisk stroll.


You can move at your own pace. However, you should condition your body so that it can perform at least 30 minutes per day of cardio. Cardio can actually be beneficial if you increase your aerobic capacity. This means that you should increase your heart rate, depth and breathing, as well as your muscular endurance, to the point where you can comfortably complete at least 30 minutes of your chosen activity.

Cool down

Take 5-10 minutes to relax after each session. Cool down by stretching your calves, quadriceps, lower back, hamstrings, and chest. This post-workout stretch can help your muscles, lungs and heart rate return to normal.


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