Updated: Sep 21, 2021
Cardio, cardio, cardio. It is really a love or hate situation. Some absolutely love it, others do not even want to hear about it. In this blog, I want to cover the cardio workout. The importance of it. The benefits and the common myth that people believe in.
The cardio-respiratory system consists of two independent systems.
The respiratory system is often called the pulmonary system or the ventilatory system. Consisting of the lungs, muscles, and airways.
The second one is the cardiovascular system that comprises the heart, blood, and blood vessels.
Both systems interact with each other to supply and deliver gasses and nutrients to bodily tissues while removing waste products and gasses.
While performing a cardio activity we exercise both systems, making them more efficient at doing their vital functions, which therefore translates to improved health and condition. Why is that important?
The faster those systems manage to deliver gasses and nutrients to the muscles and remove the waste products, the faster the muscles are going to recover and be ready for activity.
Climbing the stairs.
Your friend is waiting for you downstairs. You go down and realized you forgot your phone. You run back upstairs to take it and then came back down, you realize that you can’t talk. You struggle to take a breath and you need 5 minutes, to get back to normal, as your heart feels like it's going to explode. Apart from scaring your friend you also prove to yourself that your cardio-respiratory system is not fit.
Let us imagine a scenario where you exercise that system. You are kind of prepared for activities like the one listed above. So, you run back upstairs, take your phone, and go back down fast. You sit in your friend’s car and you are ready to go. You sure feel a bit warmed and your heart rate is elevated a bit, but it is nothing crazy. You do not even need time to recover.
So, what have we learned so far?
Exercising the cardio-respiratory system is going to allow you, to be more fit and healthy, is going to allow you to perform daily tasks with more ease and is going to compliment other types of training.
But how to train that system?
Cardio training has been described as a continuous, rhythmic activity, that employs large muscle groups and that which stimulates a significant increase in energy expenditure. In other words, every continuous activity elevates your heart rate.
See cardio-respiratory system is a system that works all the time. It is an endurance-based system, therefore when we train it, we should pick activities that are prolonged and you can perform them for 30 minutes straight.
I recommend when training this system, to time the activity. For instance, if you want to run, but you cannot for 30 minutes straight, start walking fast for 30 minutes, then increase the speed every time you train it until you reach the desired goal. It is a better approach, as it is going to gradually target the cardio-respiratory system and improve its threshold.
It is the same with swimming, jumping rope, any cardio equipment such as spinning bike, cross trainer, rower, etc…
The timing approach is superior when it comes to improving that system, as it can be easily measured, and it is very specific. It is worth knowing that, just like any other system, it needs to recover after training, so I recommend having a day in between cardio sessions (3 to 4 times per week) if you choose to do this approach.
However, you can still target the cardio-respiratory system, by doing other activities, such as dancing, hiking, any ball sport, tennis, whatever you prefer, really. It is not very specific, it is more the skill that you are practicing of the sport, but if it requires you to be active for 1 hour, it does work on that system and it is going to help you reduce fats too. This brings me to the next topic I want to discuss, and that Is cardio and fat loss.
It is a very common myth, saying that cardio training is going to make you lose fats. Let me explain.
Cardio training is going to burn calories. Just like walking for 1 hour and lifting weights. As we already know, burning more calories than consuming is going to result in weight loss. Now I want to stress here, that weight loss and fat loss are very different. You can stay with the same amount of body fats and lose weight. And you can stay the same weight and lose fat tissue.
Look, it is all about the signals you send to your brain. If you send the signal, saying we don’t need muscles because we have to be efficient with running for a long distance, your brain is going to get rid of muscles that require energy. Because more muscles mean more energy needed. And a large amount of energy and long-distance are not best friends. Just like the car. Which car is going to consume more energy for 300 miles of slow cruising? The one with a small engine, or the one with a huge engine. The bigger one of course. The small one is more efficient at burning energy. Same with your body. If you ask your brain to often do long cardio sessions, it will adapt, resulting in muscle mass loss and slow metabolism.
Do not get me wrong. If you are an endurance athlete, go for it. If you like running, go for it. Just do not associate cardio training with fat loss. You will get frustrated very soon and stop doing any kind of training. You can complement your muscle-building training by doing cardio training twice per week. You can increase fat loss by increasing overall activity. You can improve your cardio-respiratory system by focusing only on cardio. It is all going to help you feel and perform better. Any kind of activity is better than no activity at all. So, pick the one you like and the one that you are going to be doing consistently.
At the end of the day, one matters the most and it is our health. Which is an aggregation of all different aspects of our life. The more aware we are, the healthier we are going to be. Keep going.