Cardio IS Hardio, But It’s Necessary Yo…

I know, you just rolled your eyes at the sight of the words “cardio” and “necessary” in the same sentence…

I get it!

Cardio isn’t my favorite either,

BUT

It IS a necessary evil, and it DOES have its place in almost EVERY fitness program. The truth is, whether you like it or not, cardio is an important component of physical fitness.

Why?

When our muscles need oxygen, our cardiovascular system has to be able to efficiently deliver it to them. In addition, when our bodies have waste products that need to be expelled (i.e. carbon dioxide and metabolic waste products), our heart-lung complex has to be up to task… And, what is the best way to strengthen all aspects of the cardiovascular system, ensuring that everything is up to par?…Aerobic Exercise (Cardio)!

Aside from the obvious, improving aerobic strength and functioning, cardio has many other noteworthy benefits, as well.

For starters, cardio burns fat. Aerobic exercise can burn up to 1,000 Calories per hour, depending on the type and intensity of the activity. This is extremely important to those with a goal of weight loss. When paired with a sound nutrition plan, a well-designed exercise program, combining adequate amounts of cardio and strength training, is the key to fat loss,.

In addition to aiding in weight loss, cardio can actually increase your lifespan. Research indicates that for every 1 hour you spend exercising aerobically, you extend your life by 2 hours…Talk about a pretty good return on your investment!

Cardio also:

  1. Increases Energy
  2. Aids in Relieving Depression
  3. Aids in Preventing Certain Types of Cancer (colon cancer in both men and women, as well as cancers of the reproductive system and breast cancer in women)
  4. Enhances Self-Image
  5. Relieves Stress and Anxiety
  6. Reduces the Risk of Heart Disease
  7. May “Slow” the Aging Process (helps you maintain and sustain your ability to perform work and be independent by counterbalancing age related decreases in work capacity and physical performance)
  8. Increases HDL “Good” Cholesterol
  9. Improves the Quality of Sleep
  10. Improves Mental Sharpness

Pretty good stuff, huh?

But, if you’re still not convinced, try this on for size…

Cardio is important to muscle development…Yep! True story!…In fact, muscles are actually the primary target of aerobic training. See, cardio increases the size and number of mitochondria that produce energy aerobically, and it increases the level of enzymes in muscles that are required for aerobic transformation of “fuels” (primarily fats) into energy…Translation, cardio increases the muscles ability to use fat as a source of energy. It does hold true that too much cardio can actually lead to muscle atrophy (breakdown), but just the right amount is necessary to help improve energy and tone.

Now for the question: What is an adequate amount of cardio?

Answer: It varies based on your specific goals…

The good news is, no matter your goal, you don’t have to spend countless hours on a treadmill, or some other boring stationary machine, to get the adequate aerobic benefits necessary for optimal health. In fact, research shows that an aerobic exercise program that exceeds more than four 45-minute sessions per week has limited effect on improving your aerobic capacity, and, in addition, if your goal is to maximize your level of muscle mass, exercising aerobically more than 1.5 hours per week may be counterproductive. In short, a little bit goes a long way.

So…

I recommend anywhere between 90-150 minutes of cardio per week, depending on your goal. For example, if weight loss is your goal, you’ll want to aim for 145-150 minutes per week. If straight muscle hypertrophy (growth) is your goal, 50-90 minutes per week will be sufficient. For those looking to improve fitness, boost metabolism, and maintain a healthy lifestyle, anywhere between 120-130 minutes of aerobic training per week is ideal. You can break it up any way you like (20-30 minute sessions 4-6x a week), and you can choose to do whatever suites your interest, like cycling (indoor or outdoor), rowing, walking/jogging/running (indoor or outdoor), rope training (battle rope), jump rope, stair climbing/elliptical, cross training, HIIT (interval) training, the options are limitless!

Here’s a fun HIIT circuit that will really get your heart racing:

  • 50 Jumping Jacks
  • 50 High Knees
  • 50 Step-Ups
  • 50 Mountain Climber-Pushups
  • 50 Butt Kicks
  • 30 Pushups
  • 1min Stationery Sprint

Complete the given number of reps for each exercise and move to the next exercise with NO rest. Once you’ve completed ALL exercises, you’ve completed ONE round. Rest 90 seconds and repeat. Do THREE to FIVE rounds.

OR try the same routine with TIMED INTERVALS.

  • 30 sec Jumping Jacks
  • 30 sec High Knees
  • 30 sec Step-Ups
  • 30 sec Mountain Climber-Pushups
  • 30 sec Butt Kicks
  • 30 sec pushups
  • 30 sec Stationary Sprint

Time yourself! Do each exercise for 30 SECONDS, and then move on to the next exercise. Complete ALL exercises with NO rest. Once you’ve done everything listed, you’ve completed ONE round. Rest 90 seconds and repeat. Do THREE to FIVE rounds.

And, here’s a No Equipment HIIT Circuit that can be done ANYWHERE!

  • 25 Jumping Jacks
  • 50 Mountain Climbers
  • 50 High Knees
  • 25 Burpees
  • 50 Butt Kicks
  • 25 Pushups
  • 25 Tuck Jumps
  • 50 Jumping Jacks

Complete the given number of reps for each exercise and move to the next exercise with NO rest. Once you’ve completed ALL exercises, you’ve completed ONE round. Rest 90 seconds and repeat. Do THREE to FIVE rounds.

OR try the same routine with TIMED INTERVALS.

  • 30 sec Jumping Jacks
  • 30 sec Mountain Climbers
  • 30 sec High Knees
  • 30 sec Burpees
  • 30 sec Butt Kicks
  • 30 sec Pushups
  • 30 sec Tuck Jumps
  • 40 sec Jumping Jacks

Time yourself! Do each exercise for 30 SECONDS, and then move on to the next exercise. Complete ALL exercises with NO rest. Once you’ve done everything listed, you’ve completed ONE round. Rest 90 seconds and repeat. Do THREE to FIVE rounds.

Whatever you choose to do for cardio, make sure it’s something that you enjoy. Don’t force yourself to engage in something that you dread, because you wont stick with it. You don’t necessarily have to like cardio, but there’s no reason you should have to feel tortured while doing it. There are just too many options available.

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