Before we talk about the benefits of cardio exercise, let's take one step back.
You can train in many ways, but there is a basic distinction between aerobic and anaerobic activity.
What differentiates them is the type of energy used.
During aerobic exercise the body initially draws energy from sugar reserves (glycogen) and then from fat storage (to support the effort).
During this process, our body uses oxygen (as fuel to burn the substrates of energy), which is provided to the muscles through the cardiovascular system.
Aerobic activity requires a moderate effort for a prolonged period of time, at least 20 minutes.
Characteristics and Examples
So, to recap, the aerobic training requires oxygen, provided by the cardiovascular system, as fuel to burn sugar first, and then fat (but only after the first 20 min of activity).
Aerobic activity generally consists of low intensity-long duration type of training.
- Running (jogging)
- Swimming (low intensity)
- Cross country skiing
- Exercise bike
The Benefits of Cardio Exercise
Some of the benefits of aerobic exercise are well known, like increasing resistance and breathing capacity.
Aerobic activity also promotes the proliferation of blood vessels, thus increasing the blood supply to the cells, and it reduces the heart rate and lowers the blood pressure.
Another of the benefits of cardio exercise is that it allows you to burn the fat storage, in fact we all know that it is recommended to lose weight, but not only.
It lowers cholesterol and triglycerides, tones the major muscle groups, helps fight anxiety and depression.
On top of that, cardio exercise help improve the immune system.
Basic Advice for Training
If we just look at the benefits of cardio exercise it sounds like everybody should do it like crazy, right?
Cardio exercise is recommended to anybody, but only in accordance with their physical capabilities and age.
Before training it is best to warm up for 5-1o minutes (for example with a slow run).
At the end, cool down for another 5-10 minutes with exercises of decreasing difficulty.
Frequency and Duration of Training
To get all the benefits of cardio exercise it is crucial to train regularly, at least three times a week.
The duration of the exercise should be no less than 40 minutes, aiming to 1 hour and more, as you get more trained.
Intensity of the Exercise
The correct intensity of cardio exercise depends on the level of training and on your own goals. Remember that intensity and heart rate are proportioned.
The maximum heart rate (HRMax) can be simply calculated like this:
HRMax = 220 - Your age
- Low intensity (60-70% HRMax): in general it is recommended to those that are starting out, as beginners, or those that have some cardiovascular problems or are overweight.
- Medium intensity (70-80% HRMax): recommended to those who wish to improve cardiovascular efficiency and keep in good shape.
- High intensity (80-90% HRMax): usually only for athlets who want to maximize their aerobic performance.
I know it is sometimes hard to start doing aerobic activity, usually most people tend not to like it too much as it is considered boring or not fun in general.
But may after reading this article, think of all the benefits of cardio exercise, and maybe you'll find some more motivation!