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Cardio Fitness

What Is Cardio Exercise?

So, what is cardio exercise? Follow along as we break down everything you need to know about cardio exercise here!

Published: 3/18/19


What Is Cardio Exercise?

Besides hearing people groan and gripe about completing a cardio workout or touting about cardio’s incredible benefits, you may not be all that certain of exactly what regular cardio exercise is and what makes cardio important. Cardio, a type of regular  aerobic exercise, does not only include physical fitness activities like walking, running, jumping rope, and biking. Cardio workouts have everything to do with how your heart is beating during the workout.

So, what is cardio exercise?

Cardiovascular Exercise Definition

The definition of cardio according to the Cambridge Dictionary is, “Physical exercise that increases the rate at which your heart works.”  Many professionals would add that this form of exercise should take your heart rate into its target training zone for more than 10 minutes for it to be considered a cardio workout.

Benefits of Cardio Exercise

Whether you prefer HIIT workouts involving squat jumps and mountain climbers or low-impact cardio training like walking or biking, aerobic activity offers many benefits. Some of the known health benefits of cardiovascular training are:

  • Helps burn calories and fat for weight loss
  • Strengthens your heart and muscles
  • Helps manage or prevent high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease
  • Increases your lung and aerobic capacity
  • Reduces stress and helps you sleep better at night
  • Boosts your mood

How to Calculate Target Training Zone

So, to begin this journey into regular cardio exercise, we first need to know our target heart rate or target training zone. You can find this by plugging your information into your heart rate monitor or by completing the following process. Get ready, because we are about to do a lot of math. Our example will use someone who’s age is 30:

First, we need to calculate your maximum and resting heart rates. To easily calculate your maximum heart rate, simply subtract your age from 220.

Example: 220 – 30 = 190

Then, calculate your resting heart rate by locating your pulse and counting how many times your heart beats for one full minute. It is important to calculate your resting heart rate while you are resting, so we recommend doing this when you wake up in the morning before your feet even hit the floor. If that is not possible for you, just make sure that you have been resting for an extended period for best results. (During a marathon of your favorite Netflix series might be a good time!) Your resting heart rate will usually land somewhere between 60 and 100 beats per minute.

Let’s say you calculated a resting heart rate of 60.

Calculate Your Target Heart Rate Zone

Now, we need to use those numbers to calculate your target heart rate zone. Somewhere within this zone is where you will want your heart rate to land when completing a cardio workout if you want a moderate effort. Calculations for an intense physical fitness workout or a light aerobic workout would have different numbers which can be found here

First, subtract your resting heart rate from your maximum heart rate:

Example: 190 – 60 = 130

Multiply that answer by 0.70 and add your resting heart rate back in. This will be the lower end of your target heart rate zone:  

Example: 130 x 0.70 = 91

Example: 91 + 60 = 151

Then, repeat that same process, but instead of using 0.70, you will want to use 0.80:

Example: 130 x 0.8 =104

Example: 104 + 60 = 164

So, for this individual, they will want their heart rate to land somewhere between 151 and 164 beats per minute during a moderate cardiovascular exercise.

How To Calculate Your Heart Rate While Training

Obviously, getting a heart rate activity tracker will make this much easier on you. If you don’t have a heart rate monitor or forget it at home, you can find out if you are in your target heart rate zone by taking a pause from your aerobic workout for 15 seconds, locating your pulse, counting your heartbeat, and then multiplying that by 4 (making a full 60 seconds). Voila! Now you know if you need to work harder. But all of this math is hurting our brains, so back to the fun stuff!

What Workouts Are Counted As Cardiovascular Exercise?

The cool thing about cardio exercise is that there are many types of cardio and you can achieve a cardiovascular endurance workout through almost any form of physical activity. Yes, that includes strength training like weightlifting! We have talked about cardio extensively whether it is completed through interval training, Team Training sessions, group exercise, swimming, or weight training. Conventionally, though, when people think of cardio, they think of a treadmill. So, if you are looking for a quick treadmill cardio workout, here is one that we love!

Cardio Treadmill Workout

Cardiovascular treadmill workout


Including the warm-up and cool down, this aerobic activity could take you anywhere from 16 minutes or longer. It is essential if you are new to cardio training to make sure that you are checking your heart rate, and not overexerting yourself. As with any physical activity exercise, we want you to build strength as you go along. You can’t start by running a marathon—so, don’t overdo it. You can even start with a lower impact cardio workout. Listen to your body and prioritize form to prevent injury.  Form is more important than speed when it comes to cardio. Over time you will get better and better, and pretty soon you will be running circles around all of us.

How Much Cardio Exercise Is Recommended?

To experience the benefits of cardio exercises, many professionals recommend adding cardio to your workout routine for 150 minutes a week. Keep it fun and improve your cardiovascular health by using the stairclimber, elliptical, joining a Team Training session or group exercise class, participating in high-intensity interval training, or even completing a circuit workout with weights that get your heart rate up into that target zone! Instead of keeping things the same every time, by mixing up how you complete your cardio workout you will find yourself looking forward to those 150 minutes every week. At Chuze Fitness, you can find a cardio area with over 80 pieces of equipment in every gym. So, come on in and give it a go!

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