Cardio – What You Need to Know

Cardio exercise is exercise that raises your heart rate to a level where you are working, but can still talk. It is important because it makes your heart strong, increases your lung capacity, helps reduce risk of heart attack, helps your sleep better and reduces stress. It also helps you get and keep your weight under control. The latest fitness guidelines suggest doing cardio for 30-60 minutes a day.

Cardio includes running, cycling, hiking, walking or dancing. At the gym, there are numerous machines to use like treadmills, elliptical trainers, rowing machines, stationary bikes and stairmasters. At home, you can use videos that include kickboxing, Tai Chi, aerobic workouts, or many people have their own machines at home.

Beginners should start with 5 minutes of cardio and work up to 30 minutes or more over a few weeks. Try doing mini-workouts throughout the day instead of doing it all at once. Those workouts could include parking your car a distance from your destination and walking briskly instead of trying to find a place close to the building; taking the stair instead of the elevator; walk to places instead of driving. Many people say they don’t have time to exercise, but we all have the same 24 hours in each day. The difference is what you do with that time. If you have the extra money, hire a personal trainer – they can keep you motivated. Important note: cardio exercise is great for you, but don’t over-do and hurt yourself.

Choose the kind of cardio that you like and will do on a regular basis. There is no ‘best’ cardio exercise. Any activity that gets your heart rate up will work. Do some cardio at least three days a week, and if you get bored, alternate what you do.

You can maintain your fitness level by doing cardio 2-4 days a week for at least 20 minutes, but to lose weight, you’ll need to do 4 or more days a week for 30 minutes. When you can’t keep to a regular schedule, do however many days you can. If you think one or 2 sessions a week at 20 minutes each is all you can do, then do that. It’s better to set easy, attainable goals and stick to them rather than do no exercise at all.

As with any type of exercise, it is important to ‘warm-up’ with at least 5 minutes of walking and stretching. After your workout, do 5-10 minutes of ‘cool-down’ as well.