Cardio. It’s a word that gets used a lot. But what does it really mean? What’s the best kind? And how much is the right amount?
If you don’t know much about exercise or are totally new to it, we want to help you get started by answering some common questions about what cardio does, why you should do it, and how to get the most from it.
What Does Cardio Really Mean?
Cardio is short for cardiovascular – relating to the heart and blood vessels. We call it cardiovascular exercise because it elevates your heart rate and gets your blood flowing for a long period of time. When we talk about cardio, we’re talking about activities like running, walking, jogging, swimming, or dancing.
What’s Good About It?
Cardiovascular exercise is one of the best things you can do to stay healthy! Regular cardiovascular exercise can:
- Boost your self-esteem
- Fight stress
- Help you burn fat and maintain a healthy weight
- Help you sleep better at night
- Lift your mood
- Lower your cholesterol
- Reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s
- Strengthen your heart
You can also make cardiovascular exercise a social activity that you can do with friends and family. Once you get used to moving more, you might think about walking to work to beat the stress of traffic.
How Much Do I Need?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that most adults should aim for 150 - 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise like brisk walking, light jogging, tennis swimming, or dancing a week. Or, if you can dial up the intensity on your exercise (running, aerobics, Zumba, lap swimming, rowing), you can cut that number to 75 - 150 minutes a week.
Whoa! Isn’t That a Lot?
If you’ve never exercised before, it may sound like a challenge. But if you break it down into daily chunks, you can do it! If you’re a beginner, aim for 20 minutes a day. You don’t have to do it all at once – you can start by doing five or 10 minutes of cardio several times a day. The CDC also recommends spreading it out over at least three days of the week to get maximum benefits.
Do I Need to Go to the Gym?
The gym does have all kinds of fancy exercise machines, but you don’t need a gym membership to get fit. Consider this list of activities:
- Easy swimming
- Riding a bike
- Walking briskly (2.5 miles per hour or faster)
- Light hike
- Exercise classes such as step aerobics or kickboxing
- Jogging or running
- Jumping rope
- Riding a bike faster than 10 miles per hour
- Swimming laps
- Long-distance hiking
- Vigorous dancing
How Hard Should I Work?
You should work hard enough that your heart rate and breathing increases, but not so hard that you’re completely out of breath. You should have enough breath that you can have a conversation while exercising.
What If I’ve Never Worked Out?
If you’ve never been active before, some of these exercises may seem challenging. If you take on too much too fast, you may get discouraged and quit. Take it slow and steady. If you’re aiming for 20 minutes a day, it’s OK to do 10 minutes in the morning and then 10 minutes in the evening until you’ve built up your endurance. Then pick up the pace!
If you have a certain goal in mind – for example, a breast cancer awareness walk – give yourself time and work up to it gradually.
Once I Start Working Out, Should I Change My Diet?
You don’t have to – but it’s always a good idea to include more fresh produce and lean meats into your diet. Unless you are engaged in very strenuous exercise for hours at a time, skip the protein shakes, nutrition bars, and sports drinks. You should also drink more water, especially before and during your exercise.
If you’ve never exercised before, have a serious health condition such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, or high blood pressure, or you’ve recently had cancer treatment, check with your doctor before starting a cardio regimen. Call us at (888) 499-9303 to make an appointment.