What is Cardio?

Updated: Jun 18, 2020

It may sound an easy question to answer but perhaps you are just starting out on your fitness journey or you may be someone who is currently working on a nutrition plan that relies on certain amounts of cardiovascular activity to reach your goals or you may be someone who is specifically looking to improve their cardiovascular health and fitness levels. No matter what, it is important to understand what classes as Cardio Fitness and what the positive effects are. In this article we're going to explain just that. So let's start from the beginning.

What are the recommended levels of exercise?

Well, we can all get fitter and better at exercise and that comes with time. But it's important to understand the minimum recommended levels you should aim for so that your basic fitness needs are achieved. It is recommended that an adult should aim for a "minimum", of 150 minutes of moderate activity every week. That's just under 22 minutes per day. 75 minutes of vigorous activity is considered the equivalent to 150 minutes of moderate activity. That's around 11 minutes per day. Start off with realistic targets. You will begin to feel the benefits and you will be able to increase these numbers as your fitness improves. If it is affordable, a fitness watch or band is a great way of monitoring and setting yourself goals to achieve every day and it unintentionally becomes a game to reach or beat that daily target. If not, use a journal or a fitness diary to monitor your progress and activities.

Cardio activities are a great way of achieving these recommended levels.

What's is classed as Cardio?

Cardiovascular exercise is any activity that raises your heart rate and breathing rate into the moderate-vigorous zone for 10 minutes or more.

And what are the moderate and vigorous exercise zones? Moderate exercise zone:

50% to about 70% of your maximum heart rate. Your breathing will be fairly laboured but you're able to talk almost normally. Most of the moderate exercise you carry out can move to the vigorous level as you increase its intensity.

Vigorous exercise zone:

70% to about 85% of your maximum heart rate. Your breathing will be hard, fast and laboured. You will be able to talk but in short spurts as you catch your breath.

What are the most common cardio activities?

The truth is the list is almost endless but below are some examples of the most common cardio activities.

  • brisk walking

  • riding a bike

  • dancing

  • tennis

  • hiking

  • roller blading

  • jogging

  • running

  • swimming fast

  • riding a bike fast or up hills

  • walking up the stairs

  • football

  • rugby

  • netball

  • aerobics

  • gymnastics

  • martial arts

  • high intensity fitness classes

Age Groups and Recommended Exercise levels.

Children and Young Adults (ages 5-18) This is an important age. It can go a long way to instilling a mindset of the importance of exercise and good health in later life. It should also be fun. Make sure it's an exercise you really enjoy. That way, it never becomes a chore. Children and young Adults should aim for an average of at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each day throughout the week

Adults (ages 19-64) At this age we should be aiming to be active physically every single day with a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous. More is better. It is also recommended that you include strengthening exercises for the major muscles at least 2 days per week. (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).

Fitness when you get older: Every age group has benefits for keeping fit. Quite possibly the most important is when you get older. There's strong evidence that people who are active have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, depression and dementia. It is still advised to aim for 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise/ activities. Over a 5 day period, that's only at 30 minutes per day.

Examples of these moderate activities include:

  • walking fast

  • water aerobics

  • riding an bike on level ground with few hills

  • swimming

  • pushing a lawnmower

No matter what your age group, fitness has so many benefits. Not just for our physical fitness but our mental health and wellbeing and how we feel when we do get that bit older. Cardio is a fantastic way of achieving those recommended levels and it's fun, sociable and it releases endorphins that make us feel happier. It's something you can participate in no matter what age you are. I recently heard a quote that I absolutely loved and it just summed up cardio fitness for me. Hopefully it makes sense to you to.

"it doesn't matter what you look like, it's how it makes you feel". Dan Cohen Link to 10 minute Home Cardio Workout available on the NHS Website. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/10-minute-home-cardio-workout/