Cardiovascular training, also known as aerobic training, is any form of exercise that elevates the heart rate due to the repeated contraction of muscles while utilizing the aerobic and even, at times, the anaerobic energy system. In layman’s terms, cardio training is any activity that elevates the heart rate and breathing rate.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) fitness guidelines recommend that a healthy adult should aim for at least 150 minutes total of moderate-intensity exercise per week (e.g. steady-state cardio like running, brisk walks, elliptical machine, etc.). This exercise can be broken up into five days of 30 to 60-minute cardio sessions. That said, exercise recommendations can also be met through three 20 to 60-minute sessions of vigorous-intensity exercise (high-intensity interval training (HIIT), sprinting, etc.).
Those unable to meet these minimum recommendations can still benefit from some activity like short 8fit workouts — we created this program with busy folks and all fitness levels in mind.
Why you should do cardio training
Cardio keeps your heart healthy. In fact, regular cardio exercise can improve the functioning of your heart and reduce the risk of heart disease. But, how will you know if your heart health is improving? It’s measurable! Observe your resting heart rate regularly and watch it get lower the longer you exercise over a period.
Other benefits of cardio training include:
A healthier heart leads to a healthier brain later in life
Improves recovery from many diseases
Increases bone density (especially with high impact forms of cardio)
Increases the efficiency of the cardiopulmonary system (i.e. the lungs work better, and the body delivers oxygen to the muscles more effectively)
Best means of exercise to burn calories and therefore lose fat
Helps regulate depression and other forms of mental illness
Most effective cardio workout
We didn’t just choose to make 8fit workouts HIIT-style for no reason. HIIT combines high-intensity intervals with periods of rest or lower intensity intervals (e.g. a 30-second sprint followed by 30-second rest or 20 seconds of burpees followed by 10 seconds of rest). This pairing allows you to push your limits and yield some incredible results.
The best thing about HIIT, in our humble opinion, is that there is no universal “proper” or “standard” speed, distance, or even intensity level — it all depends on you, your age, and your fitness thresholds. This means that no matter who you are or what your fitness level is, HIIT will work for you.
Understanding your maximum and resting heart rate
A great way to get to grips wth how hard you’re pushing yourself in your cardio workouts is by measuring your heart rate while exercising. Here’s how to use the chart below:
Subtract your age from 220, giving you your maximum heart rate (Calculate a maximum heart rate of 160 for a 60-year-old by subtracting 60 from 220)
Calculate your percentage ranges by multiplying your maximum heart rate by the percentage range you’re aiming for (for a 60-year-old doing very light exercise multiply 160 by .50 and .60 for a range of 80-96 beats per minute)
Your resting heart rate which, as we said earlier, is a fantastic measure of your heart health, and should be calculated first thing in the morning before getting out of bed. Check your wellness tracker several days in a row and calculate the average for the best accuracy. Remember, these numbers can always be improved on. Don’t compare your speed or capacity to someone else out there because we’re all different. Push your limits, but always remember that proper form comes first.
Cardio interval training
HIIT is a form of cardio interval training. This type of exercise is scientifically proven to be the most effective and time efficient form of cardio because you experience the same benefits as less intense forms of cardio in more than half the time. So, if you’re short on time and want an effective full-body workout that’ll help you get stronger, lose fat, and improve your heart health, HIIT is for you. The 8fit workout program features a variety of customizable cardio interval workouts to help you get these results quickly.
Best cardio training machines
OK, so HIIT isn’t your thing, and you still have that gym membership? Cardio training machines are a great way to get your heart rate up and improve overall heart health. But, with so many cardio machines out there, what’s the best? We aren’t confident in ranking cardio machines from best to worst because different machines work best for certain people in varying situations. Take the elliptical, for example. The elliptical machine controls your range of motion which can be suitable for individuals who need to avoid high-impact activities like running or jogging.
Personally, we like to use machines that require the activation of as many muscles as possible. This will result in more calories burned at the end of the workout. Our favorite ones for this are rowing machines and Airdyne trainers.
Get down with cardio
It should be clear by now that cardio workouts are highly beneficial for the body, mind, and spirit too. That said, we aren’t suggesting that you do cardio all day every day. When getting into any fitness routine, the most important thing to remember is to switch things up as often as possible. Training the same way day in and day out can actually lead to overuse and imbalances in the body.
Here are some dos:
Do incorporate different types of cardio — jogging, biking, HIIT, swimming, etc. — into your routine.
Do change cardio training machines often at the gym.
Do add different movements to your HIIT workouts during the week to challenge different muscles and avoid injury brought on by muscle fatigue.
Do prioritize proper form above all else.
Do to for effective cardio at home. You’ll get the variety your body needs to strengthen and burn fat properly.
Get up and get moving. Your body will thank you now — and in the future.