Have you been someone who wanted to lose weight for months but gave up because of the long-lasting process of diet and gym? Usually, for a beginner, cardio exercises can kickstart your weight loss journey.
Cardio-respiratory exercises are a group of exercises that depend on the aerobic energy-generating mechanism in the body. Thus, cardio exercises are also called aerobic exercises. Aerobic denotes any mechanism or reaction requiring oxygen as a base. For instance, all the energy-producing mechanisms in our body need oxygen to complete the responses. Thus, cardio exercises also depend on oxygen inhaled by our respiratory system.
If you want to lose weight, follow a good diet and adequate cardio exercises. Usually, a good diet combined with cardio and strength training aids in shedding those extra kilos faster.
Cardio Exercises: Introduction
Cardio exercises are recurring activity sequences that focus on increasing the heart rate. Depending upon the weight and age, we group it into low and high-intensity cardio exercises.
We consider cardio exercises the best for weight loss as they convert carbohydrates to ATP through mitochondria. We group these exercises into several categories. For instance, running at an average pace for a longer duration is a cardio exercise. The categories and types can be confusing at times.
Types of Cardio Exercises
Now that we know cardio exercises are a wide range of physical activities, it is vital to know the difference between them to pick the best one for you.
A few of the types or groups of cardio exercises are below.
Rigorous Cardio Exercises
These are the group of exercises that are of high intensity in nature.
- Brisk Walking
- Tennis (Singles)
- Hiking/ Trekking
- Jumping Rope
- Stair Climbing
- Cross-Country Skiing
Moderate Cardio Exercises
These exercises are of low-to-moderate intensity.
- Tennis (Doubles)
- Hiking Downhill
- Moderate Walking
How Do Cardio Exercises Help You Lose Weight?
ATP, or Adenosine Triphosphate, is the body’s currency as it is its primary energy source. ATP is to the body what petrol is to vehicles, the body’s fuel. Depending on the daily activity and intake of food, the body utilises fuel present in the body. The mitochondria produce this fuel or ATP through various mechanisms. ATP production is mainly because of the food we consume. On consuming excess food, it is stored in the liver as glycogen or deposited as fat in various parts of the body.
Depending on the intensity of the exercises, the fat deposited gets converted into energy or ATP for further use. Usually, the exercises are done at a moderate speed and aid in more weight loss compared to high-intensity activities. That is because one might feel tired after a few minutes of a high-intensity workout, whereas that is not the case with moderate or low-intensity exercises. In addition, during moderate exercises, the body uses fat for energy production, whereas, in a high-intensity workout, glycogen is an instant energy form. Moreover, glycogen gets over within a few minutes. Then the stored fat is burned.
Cardio exercises more than any other help lose fat.
Benefits of Cardio Exercises
Besides weight loss, cardio exercises have several additional benefits related to all the vital metabolic systems of the body. A few of these benefits are below.
- Strengthens the Respiratory Muscles
- Lowers Stress
- Lowers Chances of Depression
- Increases erythropoiesis- Red Blood Cells Production, thus increasing oxygen carrying capacity.
- Reduce chances of Type 2 Diabetes
- It Improves Cardiovascular Health and reduces heart disease.
- Decreases Cholesterol Level
- Prevents and Reduces Bone Loss
- Reduces Chances of Stroke
- Increases Pain Tolerance
- Reduces Blood Pressure
- Enlarges the Heart Muscle, improves the pumping level and efficiency
- Improves daily memory: Episodic Memory
- Reduces chances of osteoporosis
These benefits are from a few studies. More evidence on these facts is yet to come.
The ICN Note
Cardio-respiratory or aerobic exercises are a group of high-intensity activities that stimulate quicker weight loss. Cardio exercises encompass a wide range of exercises grouped into two major categories, high and moderate intensity exercises. Although the prime benefit of cardio exercise is losing weight, it also has several other perks that aid in improving heart health.
Best Cardio Exercises
Cardio exercises carry several health benefits. But to achieve these benefits, one needs to incorporate cardio into their day-to-day schedule. Moreover, since cardio activities have a wide range of exercises, it might confuse a beginner on what exercises are best for a particular person with a certain BMR. Therefore, some of the best cardio exercises are mentioned below.
Jogging in One Area
Are you worried that you do not have a garden or a park area to jog every day, but you still possess the motivation to jog? Then this exercise can do wonders for you. You just need a mat to avoid slipping.
Start bouncing on your legs one after the other. Combine this with swinging your arms on each side. This exercise will increase your heart rate and works as a good warm-up exercise as every limb of your body is stretched and activated.
Dancing is one of the best cardio exercises to date. It has no pre-requirements. Any part of your home could be your dance floor. There are no practical steps to dance. Just turn up the music volume, dance to your favourite song and burn those calories!
One can perform Jumping Jacks anywhere. In addition, the steps are pretty simple.
- Stand with your legs apart almost hip width.
- Start jumping with your arms on the side. Next, bounce on your legs and spread your arms onto each side.
- Bring back your arms and legs to the initial position.
First, start with slow jumping jacks, and then you can alter and increase the intensity of the exercise.
It is one of the most effective ways to burn calories. Jumping rope, also called skipping, requires a rope. You can opt for two-leg jumping or one after the other leg jumping. Gradually you can increase the intensity/ pace too.
This exercise falls under the category of advanced cardio. It activates the lower muscles of the body.
- Start with a pushup position.
- Bring one of your knees close to your chest and switch the leg.
- Increase the intensity by quickly changing the legs.
You must include the above exercises in cardio exercises. You can also include cardio by switching to stair climbing instead of elevators and brisk daily walking.
How Much Cardio Do You Need?
The requirement of cardio is different for different individuals. It depends on several factors. These factors are:
- BMR: Basal Metabolic Rates
- Fitness Level
- Oxygen Carrying Capacity
- Red Blood Cells and Haemoglobin
- Body Fat
- Frequency of Cardio Exercises
Even though cardio is interdependent on many factors, certain conditions are common. These are below. Older adults can follow these regulations.
- If you opt for regular moderate-intensity cardio exercise, you need at least 150 minutes of activity per week. For example, a 30 min walk five days a week achieves this.
- If you opt for high-intensity cardio, you need 75 minutes of vigorous cardio per week. People who are already fit and are trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle can opt for this method.
- After losing some weight, you must continue with 300 minutes of cardio activity per week to maintain that weight.
The Physical Activity Guidelines of the United States put forth all these regulations.
Even though the elderly may perform all the cardio exercises reserved for young adults, some regulations are prescribed to the elderly by the National Institute on Ageing. These are below.
- Light Activity, preferably warm-up or beginner cardio activities
- These exercises should not lead to acute chest pain or dizziness.
- It would help if you did not consume too many liquids while exercising. (Exception: if prescribed by a doctor).
Tips for a Beginner Cardio Program
From a beginner’s perspective, cardio can get tedious and exhausting if it is limited to the treadmill. Many believe they can only do cardio in a gym, which is limited to a few machines. However, that is not at all true. As a solution, a few tips are:
- First, pick an activity that you will undoubtedly enjoy, like dancing.
- Then, include warm-up and cool-down (stretching) in the sessions.
- Pick the right place and set the correct intensity
- Set up a schedule
- Gradually increase the cardio timing
- Start with a 30 min cardio activity
- Combine cardio with strength training and a perfect diet to lose more weight.
- Check the target heart rate with a heart rate monitor and change the cardio intensity and duration according to it.
- Do not press yourself to increase the workout time with each passing day.
HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) is an enjoyable activity to combine with cardio. In addition, it burns more calories as compared to low-intensity training.
Disadvantages of Cardio Exercise
Cardio activity has some disadvantages and limitations. These are below.
- An increased number of injuries because of repetitive high-intensity exercises.
- It may initially aid in weight loss but may not be effective in the long run if the intensity is not high.
The ICN Note
Cardio is undoubtedly an excellent way to burn calories effectively. However, it cannot independently help lose weight. You need to combine it with an effective diet plan and strength training. Cardio exercises will help you lose fat initially but will not aid in long-term weight loss. They are for people of any age group, but you should regulate and change the routines according to your age and metabolic rate.
Cardio for Muscle Gain
One usually stops cardio exercises if they are trying to gain muscle. But, as vague as it sounds, cardio can help you gain muscle mass. In addition, according to studies, aerobic activities like cycling, running, and walking may also help increase leg mass.
Before starting the muscle gain process, ensure to do two weeks of cardio. Doing this would help improve the aerobic system. Moreover, an improved aerobic system will enable better strength training for muscle/mass gain.
Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercises
Anaerobic Exercises usually comprise strength training and short-distance running.
Aerobic exercises also aid in anti-inflammation, improved heart health, development of new tissue, etc.
There needs to be a balance between both aerobic and anaerobic exercises. That is because the anaerobic system comes into play when the aerobic system gets exhausted because of the oxygen demands. Anaerobic systems will generate the necessary ATP. This ATP will reactivate the aerobic system.
Cardio exercises are a blessing in disguise. It aids in weight loss, improves heart health, lowers the risk of diabetes, etc. Cardio is one such exercise that does not need special equipment. Instead, you can incorporate it into daily activities like stair climbing, dancing, and walking.
We chose the best form of cardio according to the BMR and age. There are general categories of cardio: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced levels. Doing only cardio will not help you in shedding kilos. Cardio with a proper diet and HIIT can do wonders for your body.