Why is cardio exercise important ? Should you do cardio alongside resistance training ? Many trainees feel confused about including cardio exercise into their routines. The reason for this confusion are the number of conflicting opinions about how much cardio we really need, do we even need cardio while weight lifting, etc.
There are fitness experts preaching that cardio will diminish your chances of building muscle, and that weight training is just as good for keeping your heart and lungs in prime condition. So how can you distinguish right from wrong information ?
What is Cardio ?
Cardio is a short term for cardiovascular exercise. It’s a type of moderate to intense exercise that does two things to your body:
- Increases the heart rate and rate of breathing
- Improves the function of your heart, lungs and blood circulatory system
Does lifting weights count as cardio ?
People tend to think that lifting weights is equal to doing cardio. Not every activity that raises your heart rate and breathing rates is cardio. For an exercise to qualify as cardio it has to satisfy both of the above criteria. Just like bench press challenges your chest, cardio specifically challenges your heart, lungs and the circulatory system.
Pure bodybuilding and pumping weights is somewhat useless for your cardiovascular system and lungs. You may feel like you just ran a marathon after your weight training session, but believe it or not, this is far from an optimal cardio workout.
Our bodies were created for movement. Just a short cardio session makes our muscles warm and flexible, the blood starts flowing through the body providing oxygen and nutrients to the muscles. You feel energized and confident.
Because more oxygen-rich blood is pushed through your blood vessels, the whole circulatory system is forced to grow. This results in a greater number and size of blood vessels.
Waste products that can slow muscle growth and repair are flushed out of your body. Eventually you are creating a more optimal environment for building muscle. Read more how cardio helps you build more muscle.
Even if you are skinny and your goal is building muscle mass, you should still include cardio in your training routine.
Benefits of doing cardio
Cardio is a great way to stay active, healthy and speed up the fat-burning process. Some other benefits of cardio exercise include:
Increased metabolism and faster calorie burning
Cardio burns calories so it’s a nice way to speed up fat loss. Of course, the main factor for fat loss is a good diet, but cardio helps a lot. By doing cardio, you increase oxygen levels in the muscles, helping the muscles burn more calories as energy. Additionally, cardio boosts your metabolism and can even reduce appetite temporarily.
A stronger heart and a better cardiovascular health
Cardio exercise helps you keep your arteries clean and free of plaque build-up, improving your cardiovascular system, reducing your risk of heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular problems.
Cardio exercise improves blood flow to your heart and your oxygen intake, which will even improve your strength-training regimen and overall stamina.
Lower stress and anxiety
Cardio reduces stress and anxiety. By expelling your excess negative emotions and adrenaline through physical activity, you can enter a more relaxed, calm state of being from which to deal with the issues and conflicts that are causing your anxiety.
Lowers blood pressure
High blood pressure (Hypertension) is a serious condition that can lead to coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, and other health problems. Cardio exercises can help in lowering high blood pressure.
Like we mentioned before, cardiovascular exercise has a calming affect on anxiety and improves sleep quality, both in the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and total sleep time.
Better reproductive health
Regular cardio exercise improves blood flow to the reproductive organs and lowers your risk of er*ctile dysfunction.
How much cardio is too much ?
You need to know that too much cardio may negatively impact your health and physique as well. The American Heart Association recommends about 150-180 minutes of moderate cardio exercise per week, equally spread throughout the week.
Endurance athletes usually go higher than this, however if symptoms like fatigue, sleep disorders, eating disorders, fast resting heart rate etc. appear, it means that the athlete need to back off with the exercise.