Updated: Nov 5, 2021
Cardiovascular training is a method of exercise used to improve the efficiency of the cardiorespiratory system - the heart, lungs and circulatory system. Any exercise which raises the heart rate and places a strain on the heart and lungs can be classed as "cardio" training, though there are parameters that should be adhered to in order to gain maximal benefits. Ultramarathons, for example, are amazing feats of human endurance and the cardiorespiratory systems of the participants is certainly tested. The effects of an ultramarathon, however, may not be beneficial to health (1) which goes to show that there is a sweet spot and that more is not necessarily better.
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So, what laws should you follow when performing cardiovascular exercise? Let's take a look:
1. HIIT and Hike
Imagine a spectrum of cardio training. At one end is an all-out sprint and at the other end a long walk. Aim to perform exercises closer to the ends of that spectrum instead of sitting comfortably in the middle of a treadmill for a steady-paced jog for 30-45 minutes. So while I titled this section "HIIT and Hike", it does not limit the slower-paced exercises to hiking - I just found it rolled off the tongue well!
HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) - Perform an all-out effort followed by a period of rest. Think sprinting for 30 seconds followed by a 1-minute walk, or 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off on a punching bag. Keep it to a maximum of 30 minutes in total.
LISS (Low-Intensity Steady State) - Perform long duration, relaxing activities such as walking, swimming or trekking, preferably outdoors. Do not necessarily view this as exercise, think more about the health benefits of being outside and enjoying yourself.
2. Do Something You Enjoy
Sometimes (often, actually) the thought of doing a cardio workout can be a put-off in itself. If the upcoming workout in question was something you enjoyed then it wouldn't be so daunting. This concept might seem straightforward, but, in my experience, it is actually one of the main factors affecting exercise adherence. Once any form of exercise is viewed as a fun activity, it becomes easier to stick to. So, find something you enjoy, a sport, discipline or activity. Try hiking, martial arts (my two favourites!), team or solo sports. Don't be afraid to try them all and see what sticks!
3. Think About Carry-Over
Just doing cardio for the sake of doing cardio is somewhat of a pointless exercise. While it will improve your cardiovascular system, it is time and effort which could be spent developing important skills. Sprinting, swimming, moving over difficult terrain and defending one's self could all be forms of exercise, but being proficient at them could be the difference between life and death in extreme cases. Think about what you're doing and how it can help you in your day to day life, or how it could save you one day.
Keep cardiovascular exercises short and intense or long and relaxing. Think about what you're are achieving and, most importantly of all, do something you enjoy!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Maitland is a personal trainer with over 13 years of experience. He has worked alongside a wide range of leading CEOs, entrepreneurs and medical professionals. John is a keen athlete and holds a black belt in Shaolin Kung fu. A fan of the great outdoors, he can often be found exploring the British countryside and mountains...or breaking pine boards with his fingers.