The Skinny on Cardio Exercise

Article posted in: Fitness
Close-up on shoe of athlete runner man feet running

It’s hard to believe that one simple thing can benefit your lungs, bones, joints, heart, brain, skin, blood, muscles and emotional wellbeing. But according to Cleveland Clinic, that’s exactly what cardio exercise does. You know it’s good for you. However, with so much information about fitness and exercise available, it can be difficult to determine what exactly you should be doing and how much.

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The Cardio Conundrum


Only half of American adults claim to get the recommended amount of physical activity, says the United States Department of Health & Human Services. Worse yet; only 27 percent of high school students in 2013 reported meeting exercise guidelines. cardio

So, with so many health benefits, why are so many people skipping exercise? Part of the issue might be the stigmas that surround exercise. No one wants to take a ride on the bike-of-shame in the spin room or work out next to the person who can’t get enough of themselves in the mirror. No one likes to be yelled at by personal trainer or instructor who clearly missed his or her calling as a drill sergeant.

The other reason Americans don’t exercise is likely a lack of understanding about what exercise is and how intense it has to be, says Harvard Health. Again, someone trying to lose weight doesn’t have to exercise like a professional athlete.

The Benefits

exercise benefits

As we mentioned earlier, cardio exercise can provide many health benefits. Cleveland Clinic explains that the entire body is impacted by cardiovascular activities. The increase in blood flow and circulation helps to provide necessary oxygen to your brain, skin and muscles. It also helps to improve lung, muscle, pancreas and bone health, decreasing shortness of breath and the risk of developing osteoporosis and diabetes. It can also play a part in your mood and energy levels by releasing endorphins and feel-good hormones that decrease your risk of stress and anxiety, says Cleveland Clinic.

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The Cardio Basics


According to Medical News Today, there are three “broad categories” of exercise:

  • Aerobic exercise is typically longer in duration, utilizing oxygen and larger muscles for moderate-intensity workouts. Examples include walking, biking and golfing, which help to improve muscles, blood pressure, circulation and stamina.
  • Anaerobic exercise is shorter in duration and consists of high-intensity workouts that don’t require oxygen. Think two-minute moves, like sprinting, burpees or interval training that work to increase muscle and strength. They tend to combine the benefits of cardio and strength training.
  • Agility training is designed to refine an athlete’s “ability to maintain control while speeding up, slowing down, and changing direction.” It is generally utilized in activities that require coordination and balance, such as tennis, soccer, basketball and hockey.

The Recommendations


Your specific goals will determine the amount of cardio you should be doing. If you’re just trying to speed up weight loss with cardio exercise, a few moderate-intensity workouts each week may be all you need. However, if you’re training for a marathon, it might be necessary to do high-intensity anaerobic and aerobic exercise on an intense level.

Because what you put in your body is just as important as how you move your body, the South Beach Diet recommends 30 minutes of aerobic activity per day during weight loss and 60 minutes for weight maintenance.

Similarly, Harvard Health suggests 150 minutes of a moderate-intensity cardio workout per week and two days of muscle-strengthening activities. No two expert recommendations are exactly alike, but all advocate one thing: movement. As little as 15 minutes of intense exercise each day will make a positive impact on your health, says Harvard Health.

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The Solution

cardio exercise

To get in your 30 minutes of daily exercise, consider trying three moderate-intensity, 10-minute workouts. Do 10 minutes of jumping jacks, sit-ups or pushups when you wake up. Go for a brisk, 10-minute walk after lunch. After work, walk your dog at the park. Your goal is moderate intensity—think a purposeful pace: the exercise takes effort but you can talk in full sentences, explains Harvard Health.

Or, you can mix daily activities, formal activities and sports to fulfill your “prescription” for health. Think 30 minutes of mowing the lawn (with a push mower). Try hand-washing your car. Go golfing and pull your clubs. You can play kickball with your son or daughter. The bottom line is that cardio exercise doesn’t mean 60 minutes of mindless time on an elliptical machine or training for a triathlon. It’s about making a conscious effort to move—or do things differently than you did before (like taking the stairs instead of the elevator). Start slowly, build up gradually and stick with it.

The Palm Weight Loss Blog provides a variety of exercises you can do every day, along with fitness tips and tricks to get into the best shape of your life.