Cardio is a term you are most certainly familiar with, but what does it really mean? To put simply, cardio is short for cardiovascular, which refers to the body system that has the heart at its core. Cardio exercise is therefore any kind of exercise that makes your heart beating faster than usually for a sustained period of time.
The benefits of cardio exercise
Cardio, or aerobic, activity involves the continuous, rhythmic contraction of large muscle groups.
It includes a great array of activities from skipping, biking, walking, jogging, dancing, aerobics and running to swimming, hula-hooping, playing tennis and football, and doing athletics.
The key is simply to choose the activities that attract you most. Any of these activities will not only boost the health of your heart, increasing your all-around cardio fitness, but will also burn off calories and therefore fat, enabling you to control your weight.
In addition, they will help you to keep stress at bay, fight anxiety and depression, increase energy levels, improve your mood, enhance circulation and complexion, keep you feeling younger in both body and mind, and reduce the risk of health issues such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease.
How much and how often?
Experts suggest either doing a 30-minute, moderate-to-intense cardio exercise at a pace that works up a light sweat, five days a week, or a 20-minute vigorously intense cardio workout three days a week.
These sessions may even be broken down into 10-minute blocks throughout the day if necessary in order to fit them in, as long as they are performed in addition to standard daily physical activities.
Nevertheless, for the average adult, this amount of exercise is more about maintaining good health and preventing disease than building fitness.
To reduce weight and improve fitness, 30–60 minutes of moderate-to-intense physical activity five times a week is needed.