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1 cardiovascular benefits of regular exercise

Cardio & Aerobic Exercise: Benefits, Risks and Frequency

The term cardiovascular, or cardio, is one that we are met with consistently when referring to exercise and fitness. While you may know what it is, do you know about the whole host of benefits of cardio exercise?

One of the most common forms of training and exercise types, cardiovascular exercise comes with a list of both physical and mental benefits. A cardio-focused workout can help your body and mind in a number of different ways, and here we present you with 13 of the top cardio benefits and how they’re useful to you.

Within this article, we will cover the following:

  1. What is Cardio and Aerobic Exercise?
  2. Benefits of Cardio and Aerobic Exercise
  3. Cardio and Aerobic Risks
  4. How Long Should A Cardio Workout Last?
  5. Frequency of a Cardio Workout

Before we get started with the benefits of cardio, if you hold a passion for fitness then why not transform it into a career you love? Take a look at the range of REPs & CIMSPA accredited personal trainer courses that we offer here at OriGym, and find the one (or more!) that will suit your goals.

Want to know more about our wider range of courses? You can download our free prospectus here for further information.

What is Cardio and Aerobic Exercise?

1 cardiovascular benefits of regular exercise

Before we can outline the mass benefits that come with cardiovascular training, it is important to understand exactly what it is, along with the differences between cardio exercise and aerobic exercise. For this reason, we will be referring to both within the article. 

When performing cardio exercises, you are chiefly working your heart and circulatory system. So, when you perform any exercises that place strain on your heart and cardiovascular system leading them to work harder than usual, you are performing cardiovascular activity.  

Scientifically speaking, any exercise that raises the heart rate up to 50 - 75% of your maximum heart rate is considered to be cardio. The pounding that you feel in your chest when you are working out is a sign that you are working your cardiovascular system.

Some examples of aerobic exercises include: 

  • Running or jogging medium to long distances 
  • Brisk walking 
  • Swimming 
  • Cycling 
  • Stair climbing
  • Dancing
  • Kickboxing 

Cardio exercises can be performed at the gym or at home, and have a huge range of health and fitness benefits, making them a vitally important part of your workouts, and of your everyday life.

Cardio vs Aerobic

In short, the two terms are interchangeable and the exercise methods provide pretty much all the same benefits, though the words stem from different origins and they refer to slightly different mechanisms.

When we exercise, both our heart rate and breathing increase in a bid to pump oxygen and blood to the muscles. 

The term ‘cardiovascular’ refers to processes that relate to and promote greater heart rate, whereas aerobic refers to exercises that promote a greater oxygen intake. When an exercise doesn't use oxygen (for instance, when performing short sprints), this is what would be referred to as anaerobic exercise.  

It is important that you do not confuse aerobic exercise with anaerobic exercises. Anaerobic exercises involve quick bursts of energy such as when you’re lifting weights, unlike aerobic exercises, which are performed over sustained periods of time. 

If you share our passion for aerobic fitness, then why not develop it into a career you love? Read all about how to become an aerobics instructor here.

In this article, we will be exploring the health benefits of regular aerobic exercise, as well as providing examples of how it can make positive changes to your physical and mental health.

Benefits of Cardio and Aerobic Exercise

#1 Helps to Regulate Weight 

cardiovascular benefits of regular exercise

So, what are the benefits of aerobic exercise? Allow us to explain. 

One of the primary health benefits of aerobic exercise that has been thoroughly researched is its ability to regulate weight.

By performing cardio exercises on a regular basis (three to five times a week) and incorporating them into your day to day life, research proves that this will aid weight regulation, and can even directly lead to weight loss. 

Weight loss occurs when the body undergoes a calorie deficit, meaning it burns more calories than you consume through food/drink. While some people prefer to achieve weight loss by reducing calories strictly through dieting, the other obvious alternative is to burn more calories through exercise. 

There have also been multiple studies that suggest that performing aerobic exercise regularly is the only thing you need to do to lose and regulate your weight, as opposed to dieting alone - though it is advised to implement both for optimal results.

This is supported in a 2013 study published in the scientific journal, Obesity, where researchers asked overweight participants to maintain the same diet they were currently on, but to perform aerobic exercise five times a week for a total of 10 months. In every one of their exercise stints, they were instructed to burn between 400-600 calories in each session. 

Results at the end of the experiment highlighted that the participants lost a significant amount of weight, thus proving that cardio exercises alone lead to weight loss without the addition of a diet. 

The study added that if a person were to stay on the same diet but burn an extra 500 calories on a daily basis by performing cardio, they could lose around 1lb every week. 

However, cutting calories whilst still performing aerobic exercises can reduce the amount of exercise you need to complete in order to lose the same amount of weight. The speed at which you lose weight is entirely dependent on your current weight, and the intensity level that you perform your cardio exercises at. 

Another positive of cardio in relation to weight loss is that it never loses its effectiveness, even for those who are at an advanced level. 

The more you build up your endurance, you can simply continue to boost up the intensity to increase calorie burn, with even minor changes, such as running faster, performing HIIT workouts, climbing harsher inclines, etc, all will accelerate the body’s metabolism.

To understand further how cardio helps burn fat for energy, you may benefit from reading more about the types of body fat.

Furthermore, there is a broad list of cardio exercises that will help achieve the same benefits and results. Therefore, for those who don’t enjoy running could participate in swimming, those who don’t enjoy swimming could try dancing, and those who don’t enjoy dancing could simply take up walking - meaning everybody is likely to find a form of cardio that they could implement into their lifestyles. 

Of course, the amount of calories you burn will vardy exercise to exercise, with the likes of running/jogging generally burning more calories than the likes of walking, however all will carry positive effects to your life if you have never performed cardio prior.

#2 Strengthens your Immune System 

2 benefits of aerobic exercise on the heart

Another of the main benefits of cardiovascular exercise is its direct impact on strengthening the immune system. 

Regular cardio exercises activate the body’s immune system, therefore making participants less susceptible to the flu, colds, and other illnesses. There are a few ways that performing aerobic exercises can help strengthen the immune system and keep out infections. 

Firstly, when a person is performing cardio exercises, this causes the heart to pump more blood around the body. The antibodies within the blood that work to fight off infections circulate around the body at a much quicker rate during periods of exercise, meaning they can catch infections faster, and often before they are given the chance to develop. 

Additionally, when we participate in cardio we are forced to breathe at a much quicker rate in comparison to when we are in a rested state. As a result of this, studies show that the lungs work harder to flush out any bacteria, as well as fighting off any present viruses that could result in illness. 

Finally, the other way that aerobic exercise strengthens your immune system and reduces the chance of catching an infection comes as a result of the body’s rise in temperature that is a direct consequence of engaging in cardio activity. The increased core temperature stops viruses and bacteria from developing before they can do any damage.

For supplements that can ensure the health of the immune system, check out our article on the benefits of L-Glutamine.

Strengthening of the immune system is one of the many benefits of aerobic exercise for older adults in particular, as they are a lot more susceptible to colds, viruses and illnesses than younger people. 

#3 Lowers Blood Pressure 

3 benefits of aerobic exercise for weight loss

In addition to its aesthetic benefits, cardio exercise carries an ample number of advantages for the body's internal functions, including the ability to lower blood pressure - one of the most commonly researched cardio benefits worldwide.

More often than not, high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is caused by having a ‘weak’ heart. A weak heart has to work a lot harder than a healthy heart does to circulate the blood across to every part of the body. This places an awful lot of strain on the walls of the arteries, thus causing high blood pressure. 

In a 2018 review published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, academics analysed a total of 391 studies and trials that all explored the effects of either blood pressure medicines or exercise programmes on blood pressure. When comparing the findings of the two different interventions, they found that cardio exercise produced similar results to medicines for those with high blood pressure.

The review acts as further support to evidence that exercise is an effective way to keep blood pressure under control.

To break it down into simple terms, the heart is a muscle, therefore regular performance of cardio activity will inevitably strengthen it. The more you work out, the stronger your heart will get. The stronger your heart is, the lower your blood pressure will be.

The recommendation for those with high blood pressure is to engage in approximately 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week. If this is kept up, after around six weeks, studies suggest that people should at this point see the results of lowered blood pressure. 

If you would like to pair your cardio activity with effective supplements that can help lower blood pressure, there are a number of options available on OriGym's list of the best vitamins for energy.

The long term effects of high blood pressure can be life-threatening, with symptoms in older people often displaying as strokes or heart attacks and other issues centered around heart problems. One of the benefits of aerobic exercise after a stroke is that it lowers the chances of it happening again. 

Heart attacks, strokes and high blood pressure are problems you can avoid by implementing light to moderate aerobic activity into your routine every week. 

#4 Reduces the Chances of Disease

4 health benefits of cardiovascular exercise

Similarly to cardio benefits for the immune system, performing cardiovascular and aerobic exercises may in fact prevent some life-threatening diseases.

As mentioned, one of the health benefits of cardio exercise is that it will help lower high blood pressure which, in turn, if not treated could lead to heart problems and strokes further down the line. 

However, the benefits on your health do not end there. Regular aerobic exercise will also help reduce the chances of developing some potentially life threatening diseases, too. 

For instance, long-term obesity can carry with it a number of issues and diseases, such as: joint problems, respiratory illnesses, and even diabetes. However, research and studies have concluded that certain cardio activities can directly help with these issues through its weight loss benefits.

Aqua aerobics and swimming, for example, are great exercises to try out if you’re suffering from joint issues, and swimming can also help ease the pain that is caused by having arthritis. 

Regular aerobic activity has also been proven to help lower blood sugar and regulate insulin levels, whilst also keeping body weight in check. For people with type 2 diabetes, aerobic exercise acts as an effective aid, as it helps their body process sugars better. 

It has been proven that regular exercise and losing weight might be enough to actually prevent you from getting diabetes all together, or if not, at least significantly delay it.

This can be supported by the findings of a scientific review which looked at 40 papers published between 2006 and 2010. Researchers concluded that regular cardio exercise can reduce around two dozen physical and mental health conditions, including some cancers and dementia, as well as slow down how quickly the body ages. 

The study also found that walking or cycling for at least an half an hour on a daily basis is linked directly to a reduction in cancer; when that time is increased to an hour a day, cancer incidence falls by 16%.

Furthermore, other research suggested that running or walking regularly greatly reduces the risk of developing osteoporosis, which is a bone disease that causes bones to become brittle and easily breakable. So not only does regular aerobic exercise help prevent you from developing diseases such as diabetes, but it also keeps your bones strong too. 

These issues are not restricted for older adults either, as preventing type 2 diabetes is just one of the many benefits of aerobic exercise for children too. 

#5 Increases Your Muscle Growth, Strength, Fitness, and Stamina 

benefits of aerobic exercise on the heart

Perhaps one of the more commonly known benefits of exercise on the cardiovascular system, strong evidence supports the theory that regular cardio activity helps increase strength, fitness, and stamina. 

One of the primary debates that comes off discussing the benefits of weight training vs cardio is whether muscle can be built when performing cardio exercise in the same way that it can if a person was to train with weights. 

However, studies conducted over the years argue with the mass belief that it cannot, and instead provide sufficient evidence for the opposing argument that it in fact, can!

In a review consisting of 14 studies published in the scientific journal, Exercise and Sciences Reviews, researchers found that men who performed a total of 45 minutes of moderate to intense cardio exercise four times a week saw an increase of up to 6% in their leg muscle size. 

These findings suggest the common belief that endurance training and strength training can be negative when combined is in fact incorrect. So long as you’re feeding your body with the appropriate nutrients (high-quality protein, complex carbohydrates and essential fats), as well as allowing your muscles sufficient time to recover, cardio can in fact aid muscle building.

When performing aerobic exercise, the cardiovascular system works more efficiently, promoting an increase in capillary growth in the muscles, which in turn improves muscle circulation and provides an aid for muscle growth. Additionally, cardio improves stamina and decreases required recovery time, which means you can work out more regularly and at higher intensities which will have a positive effect in strength training. 

If you're looking for a strength training programme that will compliment your cardio exercise, you will likely find our guide on how to get bigger arms fast insightful.

Other benefits of cardiovascular endurance exercises include increasing your strength, fitness, and stamina. Whilst it is perfectly normal to feel fatigued when you first start performing aerobic exercises, after some time these feelings will lessen. 

Over time you will be able to push yourself harder and farther than before and soon enough, as your stamina and strength improve, the exercises that you were originally struggling with will require minimal effort as your strength and stamina increases.

This is because, as previously mentioned, performing aerobic exercises works your heart and lungs, which get stronger the more you work on them, as will your bones and muscles. The stronger they get, the stronger you get, and the longer you can perform cardio and activities for.

#6 Improves Mental Health 

5 physiological benefits of aerobic exercise

One of the most notable health benefits of cardio exercise is its positive impact on mental health, with research proving aerobic exercises can often treat mood disorders, such as: depression, anxiety, and stress, with some studies even suggesting it can prevent the development of depression from the get go. 

When a person works out, the brain releases serotonin and endorphins. Endorphins are hormones that help deal with stress and reduce feelings of pain, and serotonin is the key hormone that stabilises your mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness. 

Whilst the release of these hormones act as short-term mood boosters, the long lasting effects of regularly working out on your mental health, in particular, has been scientifically proven to be positively impactful.

A 2019 study, conducted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, found that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%. In addition to relieving depression symptoms, findings also show that maintaining an exercise schedule can prevent you from relapsing.

Whilst endorphins and serotonin can help combat feelings of anxiety and depression, aerobic exercise is also a great way to release stress. The more energy you put into your workout, the less stress you’ll feel after, in particular if you’re performing high intensity workouts, such as boxing or weightlifting. This is because the high impacts and heavy weights allow for a physical release to be made, giving you the opportunity to channel your feelings of stress into a physical response. 

As well as being a great foil for your feelings of stress, regular aerobic exercise will also see feelings of confidence and motivation increase. Additionally, doing exercise will make you feel more energised after you’ve finished exercising due to all the positive effects working out has on your mind and body. 

One of the main benefits of performing cardio in the morning is that it provides you with energy for the remainder of the day. It has been found that exercising in the morning has more effective results on your energy levels and mood than that of a cup of coffee does, so if that isn’t reason enough to give a morning workout a try, we don’t know what is.

If you would be interested in supporting others with their mental health through a fitness related career, a wellness coach is the career for you. Find out how to become a wellness coach today.

Improved mental health is definitely one of the biggest long term benefits of exercise in the cardiovascular system. 

#7 Increases Your Metabolism 

cardio benefits

In addition to the benefit of cardio exercise for weight loss, doing regular aerobic exercise will see a direct effect on metabolism increase, which will in turn act as an aid for weight loss.

The metabolic rate determines how fast the body processes calories. Calories come directly from protein, sugar and fat, and when the body intakes those foods, it has to work to burn the calories as otherwise it will result in weight gain and added fat.

One of the most notable ways to burn calories is to perform consistent aerobic exercise. However, burning calories is not the only result of going for a run or cycling, it will also cause the body’s metabolism to strengthen, too. 

The long and short of it is, the stronger your metabolism is, the faster the body will be able to burn calories, and therefore, the easier people will find it to lose weight. This, in turn, will allow a person to then regulate their weight to ensure that they stay fit and healthy.

However, it may be worth noting that this theory does have its weak spots, with the length of time it impacts the metabolism for being highly debated. For instance, in a 2011 study exploring the effects of inserting a 45 minute vigorous cycling bout into the daily schedule found that a 45-minute vigorous exercise bout increases metabolic rate for just 14 hours.

Overall, there is sufficient evidence to support that cardio exercise benefits the metabolism rate, though more research would need to be conducted for a conclusive answer on its longevity.

#8 Improves Sleep Quality

benefits of aerobic exercise for weight loss

If you thought the benefits of cardio exercises were restricted to aesthetics and weight loss, then you would be mistaken, as a better sleeping pattern is a direct cardio benefit.

Over time, sleep deprivation will have an extremely negative effect on the body. Not only does it create feelings of fatigue, lack of motivation, and downright lousiness, but it also increases the hormone levels that increase your appetite, making you feel a lot hungrier than you normally would. An increased appetite, in turn, means that you’ll eat more, meaning it could aid weight gain. 

Whilst many studies surrounding sleep are conclusive and cannot be thoroughly explained, numerous case studies have found that those who do more aerobic exercise tend to sleep much better than those who don’t. 

It has also been identified through scientific experimentation that moderate aerobic exercise will see you sleep a lot deeper than you do when you are inactive. 

However, you should know exercising right before bed is strongly advised against. Working out, as we already know, releases endorphins which can create a high level of activity in the brain which, in turn, could lead to keeping you awake for prolonged periods of time. 

Exercising also raises your core temperature, which has also been proven to impact a person’s wakefulness and keep them awake longer. Although, performing a cool-down following a workout can help facilitate sleepiness. 

If you do opt to workout in the evening, perhaps due to your schedule or simply personal preferences, it is suggested that performing exercise 1-2 hours before bed should give you enough time to cool down and for your brain to unwind from the high caused by the endorphins and serotonin. 

Furthermore, studies have found that the effects of aerobic exercise on sleep are pretty much instantaneous and it doesn’t take much work either. Walking for 30 minutes every day could be more than enough to ensure that you get the seven hours of recommended sleep needed to feel fresh and energised for the day ahead.

While cardio exercise certainly promotes better sleep, it is also vital you do not forget the importance of rest days and how many you need, as this in itself will encourage a more improved sleep pattern.

Better sleep could be one of the best benefits of cardio exercise for men and women alike, because honestly, who wouldn’t want a better night’s sleep?

#9 Improves Cognitive Function and Keeps the Brain Healthy

cardio benefits brain

In addition to the many health benefits of cardiovascular exercise, another great thing to note is that it improves cognitive function, something that will play a huge role in your life as you age. 

Regular aerobic exercise can help delay cognitive decline in later life and is one of the most effective ways of preventing the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease. Research has shown that people who regularly work out have a lower risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

According to the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation, regular aerobic exercise can reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s by up to 50%.

In a 2018 study exploring the effects of cardio exercise on cognitive functioning and wellbeing, the findings concluded that cardio exercise carries positive biological and psychological effects that affect the brain and the cognitive functioning and promote a condition of wellbeing. Aerobic activity plays an important role in counteracting normal and pathological aging.

Aerobic exercise also causes a range of biological processes that can help the brain. Working out regularly can increase the function and size of key brain areas, such as the hippocampus, which plays a major role in learning and memory. 

This means that not only is aerobic exercise great for older adults who want to avoid developing dementia, but it’s also great for younger children too, as it helps develop the part of the brain that deals with learning.

Many studies have found evidence to support aerobic exercise’s link with better performance at school and higher grades.

If you're particulrly interested in how cognitive functions can be improved through supplements and fitness, you will be surprised to know that this is also one of the health benefits of the eggplant!

As previously mentioned, lower blood pressure can also help the brain. The more blood that is able to reach the brain, the less chance there is of you suffering from a stroke.

#10 Improves Sexual Function 

physiological benefits of aerobic exercise

Another suggested cardio benefit is that it can directly aid both male and female sexual function. 

One of the benefits of cardio exercise for men is that working out improves circulation and gets the blood pumping through your body. Not only is this a good thing when it comes to sexual activity, as it helps to keep muscles, blood cells, and nerves working at high levels, but it's also proven that increased blood flow also decreases the likelihood of them developing erectile dysfunction. 

As for the benefits of cardio exercise for women’s sexual functions, it’s been proven that exercise increases their sexual arousal. In a 2018 study exploring the effects of exercise on sexual function in women, researcher AM Stanton concluded that there was a key relationship between performing cardio exercise and the domain of sexual function.

As previously mentioned, stress and feelings of anxiety and depression can have a negative effect on your mood and body. Stress causes your body to produce a lot more cortisol, which is a hormone that the brain releases to help you deal with stress. 

However, too much of it can be damaging. Too much stress can have negative effects on your libido, aka your sex drive, meaning you could lose interest in having sex and in turn, kill your sex life. Working out can help you reduce feelings of stress, and in turn, help maintain a healthy sex drive. Weightlifting has also shown to increase libido too. 

However, it's important to note that too much aerobic exercise will leave you feeling too exhausted or overworked, which could then lead to a negative impact on your sexual performance. 

#11 Can Help Reduce Chronic Pain 

6 benefits of aerobic exercise on the body

Aerobic exercise has been proven to lessen the pain experienced by people who have chronic lower back pain, or fibromyalgia, which is a condition that causes pain all over the body. 

Performing aerobic exercise stimulates the growth of tiny blood vessels that are found within your muscle tissue. As the oxygen levels of the muscles are improved and waste products are removed, the muscles get stronger, leading to you having increased muscle function and endurance. This can then help with dealing with chronic pain as the stronger you are, the less pain you’ll feel. 

In a 2012 report that explored whether lack of exercise is a major cause of chronic diseases, researchers concluded from their experiment that conclusive and overwhelming scientific evidence exists for physical inactivity as a primary and actual cause of most chronic diseases. Therefore stresses that in  order to reduce the chances of chronic illness and pain, cardio activity should be performed by all people capable on a regular basis.

In addition, working out, as we know, helps you lose weight. Losing weight can also have a huge impact on further reducing chronic back pain. Swimming and aqua aerobics can help with chronic back pain, too, as it only focuses on cardio, and not on any heavy lifting or resistance. 

Reducing chronic pain is one of the most notable physiological benefits of aerobic exercise that older adults and those recovering from long term injuries will definitely benefit from. You can learn more about this, along with recovery of lower back pain in our Level 4 lower back pain management course that we offer here at OriGym.

#12 Improves Recovery 

7 benefits of cardio workouts

One of the more unique benefits of aerobic exercise on the body is that it improves recovery after completing a heavy workout or athletic event, and this form of cardio is often known as active rest. 

As strange as it might seem, it has been proven that the best way to recover from a marathon, for example, isn’t to lie back and rest, but to exercise at a low intensity. Active recovery alleviates the stress on your joints, muscles, and connective tissue, whilst also improving muscle strength and growth. 

Performing aerobic exercises after a marathon, or other strenuous workouts or interval training, will benefit the body in a variety of ways. Doing aerobic exercise will help reduce the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles, thus reducing the post-exercise stiffness that people will inevitably feel otherwise.  It also helps boost your mood and alleviate fatigue. 

In addition to this, performing cardio activity following a demanding event/workout also helps blood flow to the joints and muscles, ensuring that there isn’t any inflammation, and it maintains the heart rate at a more steady state, which could have long term positive effects on your endurance.

You don’t have to go overboard with your aerobic exercises either when performing an active rest workout. Swimming, going for a brisk walk, or an easy cycle are ideal ways to do an easy active recovery. The goal of recovery cardio exercise is to keep the heart rate in a moderate zone for a sustained period of time. It’s not about pushing the limits, it’s about recovery.

Whilst you may not feel like doing much exercise after a particularly heavy workout or athletic event, improving recovery is one of the greatest benefits of aerobic exercise on the body.

#13 Affordable and Safe 

benefits of cardio workouts

Possibly one of the most underrated benefits of cardio workouts is the fact that they’re so affordable and hassle-free to perform. 

You do not need any complex pieces of equipment or an expensive gym membership to experience the fitness benefits of aerobic exercise. By going for a walk with your dog or going for a run around town, it will provide similar benefits as that if you were to run on a treadmill or cycle on a stationary bike in a gym. 

Though the calories you burn may be fewer, they act as an affordable alternative for those who cannot access a gym facility or purchase fitness equipment. If you need help nailing your home workout routine, let us help you!

Whilst having high-quality equipment, such as punching bags and rowing machines will undoubtedly help you achieve your fitness goals and experience the health benefits of cardiovascular exercise, they’re not essential. 

Another benefit of cardio and aerobic exercise is that it’s safe for the vast majority of people to take part in, too. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how young and inexperienced, everyone will be able to benefit and take part in some form of cardio exercise, be that running, walking, cycling, rowing, or even swimming. It’s a universal exercise that benefits people from all walks of life in all kinds of ways. 

Whilst it may be number 13 on this list, the fact that aerobic exercise is so affordable and safe to perform arguably also makes it one of the greatest benefits of aerobic exercise, too! 

Cardio and Aerobic Risks

risks of  cardio

So, we have highlighted the cardio benefits, but what are the risks of this type of training? 

Like with most things, whether that be supplements, training, or medications, it is always advised to speak to a GP or healthcare professional prior to starting a new exercise routine, particularly in those with underlying health conditions of any form. 

While cardiovascular exercise is appropriate and safe for most people, there are certain situations where you may want to seek the guidance of a physician or research further.

Here are some risks of cardio:

  • Exercise lowers blood sugar

While this is also deemed a benefit, the fact that exercise directly decrease blood dugar levels can present a risk for some, particularly important for those who are diagnosed with diabetes. Ensure you check your blood sugar levels both before and after exercise. 

It is advised for those with diabetes to eat a healthy snack before working out and sweating as this will help prevent your levels from falling too low. Medical experts suggest a snack that contains 15 - 30g of carbohydrates, such as fruit, crackers, fruit juice or even glucose tablets.

  • Skipping a warm-up can worsen arthritis

People with arthritis often need more time to warm up, with expert advice suggesting that they should set aside 10 to 15 minutes to thoroughly warm up the joint, this also applies to those with any generic muscle or joint pains.

By warming up, this helps loosen the muscles. This is important especially in those with existing joint and muscle pain as Working out with stiff muscles can actually make the pain worse.

Warm-up activities include gentle range-of-motion exercises, marching on the spot or even walking. It is also advised to take a warm shower before heading to the gym, as this can help raise your body temperature as well as loosen up stiff muscles by increasing your blood flow.

  • Long duration cardio is not recommended for those with severe asthma

If you struggle with asthma, particularly in more severe cases, it is suggested that you seek out exercises that contain shorter bursts of activity, such as tennis or swimming. That way you can take breaks to rest your lungs. Most importantly, do not forget to use an inhaler when necessary.

  • Risk of overdoing it for newbies 

If you’re new to exercise, it goes without saying that you should ease yourself into any form of activity slowly. Research suggests that a ‘newbie’ to fitness should gradually ease themselves in over several weeks by performing between 10 to 20 minutes every other day. This will help with fatigue and muscle soreness.

A GP or healthcare professional can offer more guidelines and suggestions for your specific condition or fitness level.

How Long Should a Cardio Workout Last?

benefits of cardio how much

A question that is usually lingering not too far behind ‘what is cardio?’ is how long should your cardio workout last? 

And the answer is, there are so many things to take into consideration and so many variables that this dependa on. 

In reality, you should work on building up your duration before committing to any high-intensity workouts and training, as it takes time to build up the endurance for continuous exercise. Those who are new to fitness are generally going to perform shorter workouts in comparison to those who have been working out for years and have reached an advanced level.

If you're planning on conducting your workouts from home, then our article advising how to plan a great home workout provides you will all the tips and relevant information you will need.

Following the general guidelines given from health professionals, it is suggested that anywhere between 10 to 60 minutes of cardio to be a sufficient length workout, depending on the type of workout you do and the level in which you’re at. However, this can greatly vary depending on your fitness goals, level, the cardio you're performing and the indidvual in question.

While it is hard to give a defiitive answer, let us highlight a cople of scientifically proven pointers: 

Cardio for Weight Lifters

Frequency of cardio and aerobic training is a highly debated topic in the weight lifting industry, with many demonising the combination of the two. It carries a certain stigma of decreasing muscle gains, however there is a plethora of scientific and coaching advancements to support its inclusion in strength training programmes. 

While too much cardio can hinder the effects of strength training by burning up the calories needed for recovery and muscle building, if approached the correct way, it can be very beneficial to your training. 

The general advice for those with strength increasing goals is to engage in approximately 30 to 40 minutes of cardio, between three to four times a week. Experts suggest that this amount of cardio will allow for strength gains and muscle maintenance, without sacrificing strength training results.

Cardio for Weight Loss

To lose weight, it is common knowledge that you must alter your eating habits and commit to a calorie deficit - this means that the number of calories you consume needs to be less than the amount of calories you burn per day. 

While this can be achieved by lowering your calorie intake, it can also be approached from the other angle, with more calories being burnt a day through exercise and cardio.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesTrusted Source, they suggest performing at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 to 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity cardio exercise each week will allow for substantial changes to be made.

Frequency of a Cardio Workout

how often should you do cardio

The NHS guidelines advise that an individual should perform at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate intensity activity, or 75 minutes (1 hour 15 minutes) of vigorous intensity activity a week, however, this will all depend on your fitness goals and level.

The general guidelines for cardio frequency are as follows:

For general health - 30 minutes a day of moderately-intense cardio, performed over 5 days a week, or vigorously-intense cardiovascular activity for 20 minutes a day, spread across 3 days a week. You can also do a mixture which will work different energy systems, as well as allow your body something different so you don't burn out.

For weight loss purposes and/or to avoid regaining weight - 300 minutes or more of moderate-intensity activity a week is advised for optimal results.

To maintain a healthy body weight - Anywhere between 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week is what is best recommended.

Conclusion

Overall, cardio exercise carries a long list of benefits, with many more beyond our list being discovered as time goes by. However, we chose to highlight the biggest and most impactful benefits. 

Aerobic exercise is often deemed as one of the foundations to living a longer and healthier life, which as you can see from the mentioned benefits, it is easy to understand why. 

The benefits of cardiovascular exercise play an essential role in keeping a person healthy for a prolonged period of time, as well as directly impacting a longer lifespan. The lungs, brain, confidence, mind and mood, and brain function, plus a great deal more, all benefit from cardiovascular exercise, and it's easy to implement into the majority of lifestyles.

Before you leave, if you’re interested in a career in the health and fitness sector, maybe one where you can channel your interest in nutrition, take a look at our Level 4 Advanced Sports Nutrition Course that we offer here at OriGym.

Otherwise, download our free prospectus for further information about other courses we currently have on offer.

Sources

  1. Donnelly JE, Honas JJ, Smith BK, et al. Aerobic exercise alone results in clinically significant weight loss for men and women: midwest exercise trial 2. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013;21(3):E219-E228. doi:10.1002/oby.20145
  2. Naci H, Salcher-Konrad M, Dias S, et alHow does exercise treatment compare with antihypertensive medications? A network meta-analysis of 391 randomised controlled trials assessing exercise and medication effects on systolic blood pressureBritish Journal of Sports Medicine 2019;53:859-869.
  3. L. Alford. What men should know about the impact of physical activity on their health. International Journal of Clinical Practice, 2010; 64 (13): 1731 DOI: 10.1111/j.1742-1241.2010.02478.x
  4. Konopka AR, Harber MP. Skeletal muscle hypertrophy after aerobic exercise training. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2014;42(2):53-61. doi:10.1249/JES.0000000000000007
  5. Publishing, H., n.d. More Evidence That Exercise Can Boost Mood - Harvard Health. [online] Harvard Health. Available at: <https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/more-evidence-that-exercise-can-boost-mood> [Accessed 18 January 2021].
  6. Knab AM, Shanely RA, Corbin KD, Jin F, Sha W, Nieman DC. A 45-minute vigorous exercise bout increases metabolic rate for 14 hours. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Sep;43(9):1643-8. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182118891. PMID: 21311363.

Written by Annie Williams

Fitness Content Executive, OriGym

Join Annie on Facebook at the OriGym Facebook Group

Graduating from Liverpool John Moores University with a BA (Hons) in Journalism, Annie specialises in mental and physical wellbeing, with a specific interest in nutrition and mindfulness. Her long standing interest in fitness is what brought her to OriGym, and led her to become a qualified Personal Trainer and obtain specialist qualifications in Advanced Sports Nutrition. Annie’s primary professional attraction lies in following and tracking the ever-changing trends in the fitness industry. Beyond OriGym, Annie divides her time between personal writing, her passion for the countryside and mountain walking, and charitable runs.

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