Spend ten minutes in a gym or in fitness circles and you’ll hear references to ‘cardio’ bandied about. What does it mean, what is the science and what are the best cardio workouts?
‘Cardio’ (from the Greek word for ‘heart’) is used as a shorthand for ‘cardiovascular’, the medical term referring to the heart and circulation. In fitness terms, it refers to any exercise that makes this system work harder.
That means anything that raises the heart rate.
This kind of exercise uses up calories, and that means reducing fat levels. Combined with strength training, cardio is a cornerstone of every fitness programme.
Yoga, pilates and low-intensity weight training do not necessarily raise heart rate, although that depends on the trainer you have and how hard they work you!
Even if this type of exercise doesn't get your heart pumping, it is still worth doing. We all need to work on strength and flexibility.
Measuring your heart rate (beats per minute) is very important to get your cardio workout at the right intensity.
A good rule of thumb is to subtract your age from 220. This will give the maximum heart rate you should reach in a workout. So a thirty year old can go up to 190 beats per minute, while a 50 year old should stop at 170.
You should also check your resting heart rate as you get fitter – it should be reducing.
The NHS refers to cardio as ‘moderate’ or ‘intense’ activity, either of which will raise your heart rate. The NHS guidelines are that every adult in normal health should do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate activity, or 75 minutes of intense activity. Using a high-intensity interval training approach can cut this time – if you are fit enough!
Get into cardio and look after that heart!
I just like to combine cardio with resistance training. Kills two birds with one stone and makes your heart work just as hard.
I've been a bit embarrassed to ask these basic questions so thanks for that. And now I know what a heart rate monitor is for!