Cardio Exercises –
What are they and How Do We Benefit from them?
Cardio, derived from the Greek Kardio or Cardia is a general reference to an exercise that mainly targets the and strengthens it. Any exercise can be of cardiovascular benefit if it raises our heart rate and / or it raises our stamina in general. From a personal point of view – it was the latter that was of interest to develope the stamina needed for long walks carrying a substantial load (cameras) into the countryside and in mountainous areas.
“Cardiovascular fitness is the ability of the heart, blood cells and lungs to supply oxygen rich blood to the working muscle tissues. There are numerous methods of cardiovascular fitness exercises:-
Stair climbing, elliptical trainer, rowing, treadmill,walking, jogging, running, dance, skipping, cycling, inline skating, football, rugby, basketball, cross country skiing, kickboxing, swimming, netball, lacrosse and Zumba.” 
What are the Best Cardio Exercises?
The best cardio exercise is one that suits your requirements for overall fitness. Your personal fitness level and goal will also be a key issue. The key elements to consider when deciding upon a cardio exercise are:-
- Age – Young people can generally withstand larger strains on the heart.
- Overall Fitness
- Gender – Lower in the level of importance, gender plays a part. Males are typically more susceptible to heart attacks and should therefore consider a cardio exercise to gradually improve heart strength.
- Weight – The heart if strongly affected by the mass of the body it has to work with. Overweight people should consider how overweight they are in real terms. Cardio is designed to exercise the heart – putting it through its paces with controlled exercise to strengthen it before a major incident occurs. With the body mass being higher in overweight people, the heart is already under strain before you even begin cardio. Additionally, overweight people tend to have weakened joints and cardio workouts can be – troublesome, for joints due to the continual movement of the whole body or lower limbs. On that basis, heavily overweight people would be advised to build up their skeletal and cardio strength with a low intensity cardio exercise whilst light to moderately overweight people would be wise to consider Turbulence Training or High Intensity Interval Training protocols.
Types Of Cardio Exercise
Cardio (or cardiovascular) exercises can aid in weight loss*, lean mass gain, improve skeletal strength or train specific areas of the body for improved performance and specific fitness requirements.
- Bodybuilding – Focuses mainly on the muscular structure whilst performing hard weightlifting exercises
- Martial Arts – An entertaining, demanding exercise with the added benefits of increasing self esteem and confidence. Judo can be especially beneficial along with kickboxing in that they require extra ‘in-body’ balance to enable participants to fully benefit physically and mentally. Karate, Kendo (a form of Japanese fencing), Kung-Fu etc also have benefits..
- Floor and Body-weight Exercises – These relatively fast paced and taxing exercises also assist in burning fat. Specialist personal trainers have created fat burning exercise routines from these individual exercises to encompass both cardio and fat burning exercises to create fat burning workout(s) with cardio exercise benefits built in. But – they can be very demanding being typically high intensity in nature. These routines will typically include push-ups, squats, jumping jacks, burpees and crunches and with variations on each exercise to develop individual muscles whilst exercising multiple muscle groups to burn fat faster and more efficiently. Specific, established and regarded routines include Turbulence training and Interval Training.
*Cardiovascular exercises have been scientifically proven to be ineffective at burning fat / weight loss in most people. Cardio exercises can have serious side effects including hypothyroidism, increased levels of the stress hormone (Cortisol) causing weight gain due to the long workout times. See :Cardio Kills Your Weight Loss
Note For Seriously Overweight People –
With the intensity of effort involved in turbulence and (some ) interval training, it would be advisable to consider these forms building them gradually until you have reached sufficient fitness levels to engage in the full intensity. I have used these methods and they can be intense. Whilst it is not just the physical demands required, they do require consistently delivered blood pressure to perform reasonably. Squats, jumping jacks and some crunches could potentially lead to dizziness if you are already suffering from a weakened heart or other debilitating issue surround blood pressure and cardiovascular performance. That said, high intensity interval training has been proven to be a more effective form of exercise overall. Hiit workouts can be performed in under 10 minutes AND produce the same level of exertion as a 30 min-1 hr cardio session whilst burning more fat.
Again, evaluate your own fitness level and see you doctor before embarking on any exercise routines and deciding on which exercise to do. If you don’t wish to go to a gym, you can do cardio exercises at home…