what is cardio and how to get the most out of it 609bd01d9eff5

What is cardio and how to get the most out of it?

What is cardio workout?

What does cardio training mean? It is synonymous with aerobic exercise, in which the heart works actively and energy is produced due to the oxidation of glucose molecules with oxygen. The general nature of the training is a fairly high intensity of the muscular, cardiovascular and respiratory systems with minimal power load. The term comes from the Greek kardia – heart.

The opinion that strength training cannot be aerobic is wrong. Any exercise that raises your heart rate and forces you to breathe actively in the process is referred to as cardio. But then, what is the difference between cardio training and strength training? Resistance training to increase muscle mass or strength is anaerobic exercise. In other words, exercises in which glycolysis in the muscles occurs without the participation of oxygen. This also happens when the heart rate is too high – from 80% of the athlete’s maximum.

Relationship between cardio and heart rate

The most important indicator of training intensity is heart rate (heart rate – heart rate). For exercise to be beneficial, not harmful, you need to constantly monitor your heart rate.

Pay attention! The load is selected so that the pulse does not go beyond a certain range. Without reaching the lower limit of the heart rate, athletes get a weak effect. Going beyond the upper limit, practitioners risk health (primarily heart).

The heart rate range for aerobic exercise is calculated by the formulas:

  • lower limit = MHR x 0.6;
  • upper limit = MHR x 0.8.

Where MHR is the maximum heart rate. The calculation of the maximum is different for men and women and is carried out according to several formulas. The general and most commonly used is:

  • for men = 220 – age in years;
  • for women = 226 – age in years.

The following formulas have been found to be more accurate in recent years:

  • for men = 208 – 0.7 x age in years (Tanaka formula);
  • for women = 206 – 0.88 x age in years (Martha Gulati’s formula).

For example, if a man is 30 years old, then the training load on the heart should be within the range of 112-150 beats per minute. The heart rate ceiling in this case is 187 beats per minute. For a woman of the same age, the range will be 108-144, and the MHR – 180.

These are general calculations that do not take into account the training of the athlete, his state of health at a particular moment, the presence or absence of chronic diseases. The calculations are valid for the average person.

The benefits of cardio training

Let’s figure out what cardio is for.

For the body in general

The body benefits from regular cardio workouts are obvious:

  1. Improved heart function . The heart muscle should be tense in the same way as the others. Increasing exercise regularly and in a controlled manner will improve blood pumping and lower resting heart rate.
  2. Lung health . Thanks to cardio loads, the muscles involved in the breathing process are strengthened. As a result, lung function becomes easier – breathing becomes easier.
  3. Improvement in blood pressure. Aerobic training increases the number of red blood cells that provide oxygen transport. Exercise lowers cholesterol levels, helps burn calories and maintains healthy blood vessels.
  4. Improving metabolism . Exercise increases your metabolic rate. This responds to the rapid melting of accumulated fat deposits and the prevention of new stores.
  5. Improving hormonal levels . Aerobic training promotes the production of hormones that prevent the onset of depression. It becomes easier to live psychologically – it is easier for a trained person to endure stress.
  6. Deep sleep . People who practice regular cardio fall asleep faster. In addition, their sleep is deeper and better – due to the balance of sleep phases, the body is fully restored.
  7. Improving bone health . Half an hour of cardio several times a week increases bone density. This is especially true for the elderly. A very common cause of hospitalization is a hip fracture. Strong bones improve sad statistics.
  8. Prevention of diabetes . Aerobic exercise improves the ability of muscle tissue to process glucose. Thanks to exercise, the blood sugar level is maintained at the proper level – the number and amplitude of its jumps are reduced.
  9. Increased stamina . For many athletes, this is the main reason. Cardio training increases the body’s ability to store energy and use it sparingly.

Кардио на степпере

When losing weight

The mechanism of weight loss is based primarily on the body’s ability to store energy quickly. The body takes such energy from carbohydrates and stores it in the form of glycogen. To begin to melt fat, you must first use up glycogen, which is stored in the muscles and liver.

For this reason, effective cardio should be either long-term or intense (interval). In a fat-burning context, it is best to give yourself an aerobic load immediately after anaerobic – after strength training, where glycogen is depleted. Another good option is in the morning on an empty stomach, when glycogen stores are also depleted.

Example. Many run regularly. But their run lasts 20-30 minutes. Jogging intensity is low. During this time, the body manages to deplete glycogen stores, but does not have time to get to fat. With the first meal, glycogen stores are replenished. To get the fat burning effect, you need to jog for at least 40-50 minutes.

With any cardio exercise, it is imperative to eat right. Without a calorie deficit, you cannot get a lean body. Yes, deficiency is theoretically possible with an illiterate diet. But at the same time, it will be quite difficult to count, and it will also be very likely a constant feeling of hunger, since if the entire diet consists of fast food or sweets, it will be small. With the right diet with lots of protein and complex carbohydrates, you will be full all day and full of energy.

Important! Cardio training and proper nutrition go hand in hand.

What does science say?

Which is more effective – cardio or strength training? The research team gathered the test subjects and divided them into 4 groups:

  • control;
  • doing 30 minutes of walking 5 days a week;
  • exercising for half an hour on simulators 5 days a week;
  • mixed – those who practiced 15 minutes of strength training and 15 minutes of aerobic training (also 5 days a week).

The experiment lasted 12 weeks. The best results were shown by groups 4 and 3 – minus 4.4% and 3% fat, respectively. Strength and combination training proved to be more effective than pure cardio. You can read more about the study here.

An equally interesting study comparing the effectiveness of aerobic exercise and diet. This experiment, which lasted about a year, involved more than 400 women. As in the previous case, the participants were divided into 4 groups:

  • practicing diet;
  • doing 45 minutes of light cardio 5 days a week;
  • combined;
  • control.

Results: after a year, fat loss in the 1st group – 8.5%, in the 2nd – 2.5%, in the 3rd – 10.8%. That is, the most effective strategies were diet and a combination of proper nutrition and aerobic exercise. But what is pure cardio? Cardio itself leads to minimal fat loss. If at the same time during the day you have a surplus of calories, you can completely forget about losing weight in the long term.

Let’s make a reservation that the experimental loads were moderate. If the training were less gentle, the results would probably be different. But in any case, research shows that combining exercise with diet is more effective. Read more about the experiment here.

Кардио в домашних условиях

Types of cardio workouts

There are a lot of types of aerobic training – from running to dancing and fiddling in the garden. Most popular options:

  • walking, including treadmill;
  • low to medium intensity running;
  • swimming;
  • cycling;
  • circuit training;
  • step aerobics;
  • jumping rope;
  • orbital lessons.

Do not forget to make sure that the pulse does not go into the anaerobic zone (over 80% of the MHR). This indicator is quite easy to achieve for poorly trained people with, for example, intense circuit training.

The relationship of various types of cardio with calorie loss is shown in the table (indicators in kcal, burned in 30 minutes)

Which workout to choose?

The choice depends on the initial state of the person and the tasks that he sets for himself. The most popular option is running. But it is not suitable for those who are overweight. Heavy weight puts pressure on the knees – after a while, serious problems are likely to appear.

Regardless of potential problems, you need to choose based on the effectiveness of training, which is demonstrated by the table above. The most effective options listed are jogging, ellipsoid, swimming, and jumping rope.

The choice is tied to the capabilities of the students. Going to the gym or jogging in the park, for various reasons, is not available to everyone. In this case, home workouts are preferable.

Кардио на беговой дорожке

Cardio at home

What is important to consider when doing cardio at home? The same aspects as in other cases – tracking the heart rate, accounting for lost calories, taking care of the joints. If you don’t have a heart rate monitor at hand, you can focus on breathing. If the load is too high, it will get confused – it will be difficult to talk.

A home athlete has a ton of exercises in his arsenal. For example:

  • Running in place is a good alternative to regular running. “Run” with intense trampling from foot to foot, with alternate lifting of the knees, with the heels touching the buttocks – diversify the training.
  • Jumping in place – alternate between quick shallow jumps and squat movements.
  • Burpee is a crossfit exercise.
  • Elements of aerobics and dance.

It’s great if you have an exercise bike at home. Without taking up much space, it will help to cope with excess weight and other problems that are within the “competence” of cardio. The abundance of aerobic exercise leaves no reason to give up cardio loads – you can do it in any conditions.


Cardio training is contraindicated in people who have suffered a stroke or heart attack. You can not load the heart and those who suffer from high-grade hypertension. In their case, only light gymnastics.

Before starting to train, be sure to take into account the condition of the joints. Herniated discs, sore knees, recent surgeries or fractures are reasons to approach the issue very carefully. Asthmatics and obese people should also consult a doctor.

You cannot train with:

  • ARVI;
  • acute allergies;
  • menstruation;
  • stomach and duodenal ulcer;
  • exacerbation of chronic diseases.

In addition, beginners are not allowed to use the intensity with which experienced athletes work. You need to start with light loads, gradually increasing them and your level. In doing so, remember about the heart rate range.