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What is cardio exercise?

cardio exercise
File photo credit: wikimedia commons

By Benedict Yeo

“We’re going to do some cardio to lose that extra pound.” You’ve heard that before. Whenever weight-loss and exercise come together in a sentence, the word ‘cardio’ is always near. That is only natural. Cardio workouts are effective fat-burners. 

Cardio workouts are usually low to medium in intensity, designed to keep your heart rate up for a long period of time. They condition and strengthen your heart to deliver oxygen to the muscles more effectively, thereby also increasing your stamina. Examples of cardio workouts are swimming, cycling, walking and distance running.

A happier you

If keeping you lean, bettering your endurance and strengthening your heart are not enough motivation for you to do some cardio, hear this: cardio also makes you happier, gives you better bones and possibly extends your lifespan.

Your body releases endorphins when you do cardio workouts. These are nature’s happy hormones which interact with your brain’s receptors to diminish feelings of pain. You may find yourself feeling positive and enthusiastic about life following a tough workout. That refreshing feeling after a swim or a run? You now know why.

Cardio workouts with moderate impact, such as jogging, stimulate the bones to grow and become denser. This is a great preventive measure against osteoporosis. Furthermore, cardio exercises manage your cholesterol, increasing the good and reducing the bad. It even lowers your sugar level and helps prevent diabetes. Add these up and you have a good chance to live long and remain nimble in age.

Be realistic

A word of caution. Be realistic and increase the intensity of your workout according to your body’s condition. Immediately embarking on a marathon is not a good idea if you have spent the last three years sitting on a couch. Give your body the rest it needs in between workouts, or repetitive strain injuries may creep in. 

In contrast to cardio workouts, there are also anaerobic workouts, which require short bursts of energy in high intensity. Weight training, short sprints and jumps are examples of anaerobic workouts. While cardio exercises use a great deal of oxygen to generate energy, anaerobic workouts use alternative sources of energy such as sugar or stored energy within muscle cells. The best forms of exercise are those incorporating both aerobic and anaerobic aspects.


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