Training | POSTED May 30, 2022

Don’t Skip a Heartbeat: Your Guide to Cardio

Cardio gets a bad rap. A quick Google search of “cardio memes” will have you thinking “Cardio? More like cardi-no!” However weight training alone won’t cut it. Physical fitness involves both cardiorespiratory and muscular adaptations. Let’s talk today about how much, how to do it and how it will benefit you.

How much cardio?

The World Health Organisation has two recommendations based on the aerobic exercise intensity [1]. It’s important to note that you can do more for “additional health benefits.” So, what are they?

  1. At least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity
  2. At least 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity

Intensity simply refers to how hard are you working. For aerobic exercise we can use METs or “metabolic equivalent of a task” to measure intensity. For example 1 MET is the rate of energy expenditure while sitting at rest. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends 500 to 1000 MET minutes per week [2]. To calculate this you simply take the MET score of an activity and multiply it by the duration. Conveniently, MET ratings correspond with aerobic intensities. In other words, you can use METs to tell if you’re working hard enough, long enough. Below is a table showing the conversion and some practical examples.

How to structure your cardio

Outside of hitting activity targets there are no hard and fast rules around structuring your aerobic exercise. Okay, there’s probably one – you want to maintain a metabolic output for at least 1 minute. In other words as long as your active at least for a minute, it doesn’t matter how you break it up. For instance you can walk for 25 minutes a day at around 5km an hour. This is equivalent to about 600 MET minutes a week. Check out this month’s complimentary article for some cardio workout examples that satisfy activity recommendations. In addition some other examples of activity that rank as moderate to vigorous include:

  • Jogging
  • Running
  • Carrying heavy groceries or other loads upstairs
  • Shovelling snow
  • Strenuous fitness classes
  • Walking briskly
  • Raking the yard

Benefits of cardio

Improving your cardiorespiratory fitness seems to confer health benefits. Physical activity (including cardio) contributes to managing noncommunicable diseases, frailty and mental health. For example this includes cardiovascular disease, diabetes, sarcopenia, and reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety. There are also performance benefits. For instance increasing your aerobic fitness will increase your VO2 max or, the rate at which your heart, lungs and muscles can use oxygen during exercise. As as result you’ll increase your performance through increasing work capacity, your ability to train more and the actual cardio itself. One last note, don’t stress about whether or not a certain intensity is superior for weight loss [3]. Simply do what you can stick to and is appropriate for you.

Get moving!

Cardio doesn’t have to be a drag. Personally I’ve found ways in which I can incorporate it into my lifestyle that suits my schedule and needs. For yourself, that could include walking your dogs (or cats!), playing sport with friends or going on a hike with your family. However you decide, what matters most is that you’re consistent. If you’re currently stuck with your health and fitness goals, don’t be shy to reach out to the team at Ivy.