What is cardio?
Firstly, cardio is a misleading term! Cardio is short for cardiovascular, the Cardio part means “heart” and vascular means “vessels that circulate fluids.” Keeping this in mind, cardio exercise typically refers to activities that cause a sustained increase in your heart rate and breathing and consequently, an increase in the circulation of blood and oxygen throughout the body to the muscles you’re working. The more difficult the activity and the harder you go, the more demand is placed on your cardiovascular system. So cardio exercises are really every exercise! But the general thought process is that cardio is more running, less weights, as just discussed this is wrong! We should forget the word cardio as it simply can’t be used to separate any type of exercise, lets use for now, aerobic and anaerobic, Strictly speaking, the terms "aerobic" and "anaerobic" refer to the presence and absence of oxygen, respectively. Most of our cells prefer to get their energy by using oxygen to fuel metabolism. During exercise with adequate fuel and oxygen (i.e., aerobic), muscle cells can contract repeatedly without fatigue. During anaerobic or non-oxygen conditions (i.e., higher intensity exercise), muscle cells must rely on other reactions that do not require oxygen to fuel muscle contraction. This anaerobic metabolism in the cells produces waste molecules that can impair muscle contractions. We call this deterioration in performance fatigue.
Fatigue causes you to experience added discomfort and weakening muscles. Eventually you will need to slow down and lower your exercise intensity. Slowing down allows the muscles to once again rely solely on aerobic metabolism and support the removal or chemical conversion of waste molecules.
The problem with the terms "aerobic" and "anaerobic" when applied to exercise is that we actually never switch from total aerobic to total anaerobic metabolic conditions. In reality, the more intensely we exercise, the greater the need for anaerobic energy production. Consequently, it is best to view the terms aerobic and anaerobic as transitions in metabolism, where the proportion between aerobic and anaerobic metabolism changes depending on exercise intensity.
So cardio is all exercise and depending on its intensity makes it aerobic or anaerobic. And as touched on there are many exercises that can be done at low or high intensity. As a personal trainer I understand the importance of working through all intensity levels safely and effectively. And it is important not to just do ‘cardio’ aimlessly, there must be purpose to when and why it is set especially in isolation.
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