Cardio work, or cardiovascular work…is an activity that is going to elevate your heart rate for an extended period of time. People often think you have to do alot more of it than you actually have to do, and that you have to do a lot more than you really need to do to get the benefits.
What are those benefits? You get increased energy output. It burns extra calories and helps you drop weight, increases lung capacity, and strengthens and improves your heart and its function. It also reduces stress, positively impacts mental health, and releases endorphins.Finally, it improves your sex life… if for nothing else than it enables you to last longer… and that is always a plus.
When we look at cardiovascular work, we need to consider both low intensity and high intensity cardio. An example of high intensity work would be hill sprints, assault bike sprints… or just sprints in general. Walking, swimming, and cycling are all low intensity cardio work. This is pretty general though. It CAN be different for everyone.
There are also different types of cardio work within low and high intensity… like cyclical (using a bike, skier, or rowing machine) and mixed modal work that incorporates the use of body weight exercises, kettlebells, medicine balls, dumb bells, etc etc.
It can be quite difficult for people to know where to start with cardiovascular work or what to do. An easy thing to do for a start is to simply take a walk every day. Walking is good for your head AND your body. You could also get a bike and start bike riding twice a week, or maybe swim a few times a week. Start with low intensity things for a good foundation, and you can begin to build on that a bit later on.
Here is how you could consider structuring your week for cardio… maybe start with three days a week of low intensity workouts. As you progress, change one of those days to high intensity. So for two of your cardio workouts, you keep your heart rate elevated and between 120- 150 beats a minute. Maybe for one of those days, you are on a bike, and the other is a mixed modal day.
Now, for your high intensity day, you do assault bike sprints or hill sprints, for example. You may do 20 seconds at maximum effort, rest for a period of 60-70 seconds, and then go again maybe 8 times.
At Urban Fitness, we also like ‘free cardio.’ This is where you pick something that you really enjoy and do that for a period of time. Maybe it’s boxing or jiu jitsu… something that keeps your heart rate up but that you enjoy so much you hardly realize it’s also a cardio workout.
When you are considering cardio work, you also need to consider the amount of activity you perform in a day that DOESN’T include exercise. Getting your NEAT up, or your Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, is a really good way to increase activity levels. Get yourself an activity tracker and track your daily steps or activity. Aim for 10,000 steps a day. That equates to burning 400 extra calories. Focusing on resistance training and raising your NEAT, is also a really good tactic for getting fit.