What Is Cardio? An Overview of Cardiovascular Exercise

What Is Cardio
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Cardiovascular exercise, commonly called cardio, refers to any physical activity that increases your heart rate and works the large muscles in your body.

The benefits of cardio are numerous, both physically and mentally.

In this article, we’ll answer the question, “What is cardio?” by taking a close look at the many benefits of cardio exercise, how to incorporate it into your workout routine, and some of the most popular cardio exercises and their benefits.

Understanding Cardiovascular Exercise

Defining Cardio Exercise

Cardio exercise is any activity that raises your heart rate and makes you breathe harder than normal. This can include activities such as running, cycling, swimming, or even dancing. Cardio exercise aims to improve your heart and lung function, making it easier for your body to transport oxygen to your muscles and organs.

One of the key benefits of cardio exercise is that it can help to strengthen your heart. Your heart is a muscle, and just like any other muscle in your body, it needs to be worked to stay healthy. When you engage in cardio exercise, you challenge your heart to work harder and pump more blood throughout your body. Over time, this can help to improve your heart’s efficiency and reduce your risk of heart disease.

The Importance of Cardio for Overall Health

There are many benefits to incorporating cardio into your workout routine. Firstly, it helps improve your cardiovascular health, lowering your risk of heart disease and stroke. Secondly, it can help with weight loss and management by burning calories and increasing your metabolism. Lastly, it can improve your mental health by reducing stress and anxiety and boosting your mood.

In addition to these benefits, cardio exercise can also help to improve your overall endurance. When you engage in regular cardio exercise, your body becomes better equipped to handle physical activity for longer periods. This means you’ll be able to run, swim, or cycle for longer distances without feeling as tired or out of breath.

Different Types of Cardiovascular Exercise

There are many different types of cardio exercises you can do, each with its own unique benefits. Here are some popular examples:

  • Running: Running is a great way to get your heart rate up and burn calories. It can also be done almost anywhere, making it a convenient option for many people.
  • Cycling: Cycling is a low-impact exercise that is easy on your joints, making it a good choice for people with knee or hip pain. It’s also a fun way to explore your local area.
  • Swimming: Swimming is a full-body workout that can help to improve your cardiovascular health and build muscle. It’s also a great option for people who want to exercise without putting pressure on their joints.
  • Dancing: Dancing is a fun and social way to increase your heart rate. Whether you prefer salsa, hip-hop, or ballroom dancing, there’s a style of dance that can help you get fit.

Regardless of which type of cardio exercise you choose, it’s important to start slowly and gradually increasing your workouts’ intensity and duration. This will help prevent injuries and ensure you see the best results from your efforts.

Benefits of Cardio Exercise

Cardio exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. It not only helps to improve your physical health but also has numerous mental health benefits. In this article, we will discuss some of the benefits of cardio exercise in detail.

Improved Heart Health

As previously mentioned, cardio exercise is one of the best things you can do for your heart health. It can help lower your blood pressure, improve your cholesterol levels, and reduce your heart disease and stroke risk. Regular cardio exercise can also strengthen your heart muscle, making it more efficient at pumping blood.

Weight Loss and Management

Cardio exercise is a great way to achieve your goals if you’re looking to lose or maintain a healthy weight. It can help you to create a calorie deficit, which is necessary for weight loss. Even if you’re not trying to lose weight, cardio exercise can help to improve your metabolism and maintain a healthy weight. Additionally, cardio exercise can help reduce belly fat, a risk factor for numerous health issues.

Increased Endurance and Stamina

Over time, cardio exercise can help to improve your endurance and stamina, making it easier to perform daily activities and other forms of exercise. You might notice that you can walk longer distances, climb stairs without getting winded, or lift heavier weights during strength training. This increased endurance and stamina can also help to improve your overall quality of life.

Mental Health Benefits

Cardio exercise is good for your physical health and has numerous mental health benefits. It can help to reduce stress and anxiety and boost your mood. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, natural feel-good chemicals that can help reduce feelings of stress and depression. Additionally, cardio exercise can help to improve your sleep quality, which is essential for good mental health.

Overall, cardio exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. It can help improve your physical, mental, and overall quality of life. So, include cardio exercise in your daily routine and reap the benefits.

How to Incorporate Cardio into Your Routine

Finding the Right Cardio Exercise for You

When incorporating cardio into your workout routine, it’s important to find an exercise you enjoy doing. This will help you to stick to your routine and make it a part of your lifestyle. There are many different cardio exercises to choose from, including running, cycling, swimming, dancing, and more.

Try different cardio exercises to see what you like best, and mix it up to keep things interesting and remember that some types of cardio might be harder on your body than other types. Different types of cardio can also uniquely target various muscle groups.

Running is a great option for those who enjoy being outdoors and want a high-intensity workout.

Cycling is a low-impact exercise that is easy on the joints and can be done indoors or outdoors.

Swimming is a full-body workout that is gentle on the joints and can be a great option for those with injuries or chronic pain.

Dancing is a fun and social way to get your heart rate up, and there are many different styles to choose from, such as salsa, hip-hop, and ballroom.

Setting Realistic Goals

When you’re starting with cardio exercise, it’s important to set realistic goals for yourself. This will help you to stay motivated and see progress over time.

Start with small goals, such as walking for 30 minutes three times a week, and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts. You can also set goals for distance, speed, or number of calories burned.

It’s important to listen to your body and not push yourself too hard, especially if you’re new to exercise or have a medical condition. Be patient with yourself and celebrate small victories along the way.

Creating a Balanced Workout Plan

It’s important to include a variety of exercises in your workout routine, including both cardio and strength training. Cardio exercise should be done for at least 30 minutes five times a week, while strength training should be done two to three times a week. Be sure to include rest days in your workout plan to allow your body to recover.

Strength training is important for building muscle mass, improving bone density, and increasing metabolism. You can use free weights, resistance bands, or bodyweight exercises to build strength. Some examples of strength training exercises include squats, lunges, push-ups, and planks.

Tips for Staying Motivated

Staying motivated with your cardio exercise routine can be challenging at times. Here are some tips to help you stay on track:

  • Set realistic goals for yourself
  • Find an exercise that you enjoy doing
  • Mix up your routine to keep it interesting
  • Workout with a partner or join a group fitness class
  • Reward yourself for reaching your goals

Remember to be kind to yourself and listen to your body. Exercise should be a fun and rewarding part of your daily routine, not a chore. With the right mindset and a balanced workout plan, you can incorporate cardio exercise into your routine and enjoy its many benefits.

Common Cardio Exercises and Their Benefits

Cardiovascular exercises are essential for maintaining a healthy heart and overall fitness. They help to improve your endurance, burn calories, and reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Here are some common cardio exercises and their benefits:

Running and Jogging

Running and jogging are two of the most popular and effective cardio exercises. They require no equipment and can be done almost anywhere, making them a convenient option for many people. Running and jogging are excellent for improving your cardiovascular health and burning calories. They also help to strengthen your leg muscles and improve your overall endurance.

If you’re new to running or jogging, starting slowly and gradually increasing your pace and distance is important. It’s also essential to wear appropriate footwear and stretch before and after your workout to prevent injury.


Swimming is a low-impact cardio exercise that is gentle on your joints. It’s an excellent option for people who have injuries or joint pain. Swimming is great for improving your overall fitness and can help reduce stress and anxiety. It’s a full-body workout that engages all of your major muscle groups, including your arms, legs, back, and core.

If you’re new to swimming, consider taking lessons to learn proper technique and improve your form. You can also vary your swim routine by incorporating different strokes and using equipment such as kickboards or pull buoys.


Cycling is another low-impact cardio exercise that can be done indoors or outdoors. It’s great for improving your cardiovascular health and leg strength. Cycling can also be fun to explore new places and enjoy the outdoors.

If you’re new to cycling, start with shorter rides and gradually increase your distance and intensity. Wearing a helmet and other protective gear is also important to ensure your safety.

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

HIIT is a form of cardio exercise involving short bursts of intense activity followed by rest or lower-intensity exercise. It’s great for burning calories and improving your cardiovascular health. HIIT workouts can be done with various exercises, including running, cycling, or bodyweight exercises.

If you’re new to HIIT, start with shorter intervals and gradually increase your intensity and duration. It’s also important to listen to your body and take breaks to prevent injury.

Group Fitness Classes

Group fitness classes such as Zumba, kickboxing, or spin class are a great way to exercise cardio while having fun and socializing with others. They are also a great way to stay motivated and hold yourself accountable. Group fitness classes typically involve a variety of exercises and can be tailored to your fitness level.

If you’re new to group fitness classes, don’t be afraid to ask the instructor for modifications or exercise adjustments. It’s also important to listen to your body and take breaks when needed.

Adding cardio exercises to your fitness routine can have numerous benefits for your health and well-being. Try different exercises to find what works best for you and your fitness goals.


In conclusion, cardio exercise is essential to any well-rounded workout routine. Its numerous benefits include improved heart health, weight loss and management, increased endurance and stamina, and mental health benefits. By finding an exercise that you enjoy doing and incorporating it into your workout routine, you can improve your overall health and well-being.

If you’ve enjoyed this article answering the question “What is Cardio?” check out our list of Home Gym Essentials.”

Written by James Kosur

James is a 20-year veteran of the digital media industry, an avid gym builder, and a dad to four kids, three dogs, and two cats. He's a DIYer who loves building stuff with his hands and a gamer who enjoys all facets of gaming.