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What is Cardiovascular Exercise?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Cardiovascular exercise is a form of exercise which is designed to work the cardiovascular system, improving lung and heart health along with improving the condition of the musculoskeletal system. It is a highly recommended form of exercise for people at a wide range of fitness levels, although people should always consult with a doctor before embarking on a new exercise program. A wide variety of activities can be part of a cardio exercise routine, keeping the routine varied and interesting.

The primary goal of cardiovascular exercise is to get the heart rate up and keep it up for a sustained period. Jogging, cycling, and aerobics classes are some common examples of cardiovascular exercise. Ideally, the exercise should be sustained for at least 40 minutes, between three and four days a week. These recommendations can vary, depending on an individual's condition, with some people benefiting from more exercise, while others should exercise less for safety.

Target heart rates for cardio vary, and are established by monitoring the regular heart rate and using a variety of formulas to arrive at an ideal heart rate. A doctor or fitness instructor may be able to recommend a specific formula, depending on the goal of the exercise, the age of the participant, and the type of exercise. As a general rule, the heart rate should never exceed a rate of 226 minus the age of the exerciser per minute. This means that a 26 year old should have a maximum heart rate which is below 200 during cardiovascular exercise.

Regular cardiovascular exercise promotes healthier lungs, hearts, and muscles. Routine exercise promotes the delivery of oxygen to the muscles, helps the body regulate the presence of many compounds, and contributes to weight loss; the body literally burns fat for energy in periods of prolonged cardiovascular exercise. In the process, the muscles get stronger and more toned, and an exerciser usually develops an overall improvement in physical condition.

This type of exercise is also known simply as “cardio” or “aerobic exercise,” and it may be mixed with other forms of exercise such as weight training for muscle fitness, and stretching disciplines like yoga and pilates to improve flexibility and muscle tone. Some people design their own exercise regimens, working out a routine that is workable and sustainable for them, while others prefer to consult with a personal trainer, fitness instructor, or doctor to develop a safe and effective routine.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Crispety — On Jul 17, 2010

Greenweaver- I just want to say that I enjoyed rope jumping as a child and it is a fun cardiovascular exercise, but I prefer my spinning classes.

It gets my heart rate up, burns a lot of calories, and I am not putting any stress on the joints.

By GreenWeaver — On Jul 17, 2010

Loved the article! I just want to add that jogging is an excellent cardiovascular exercise that burns fat and calories quickly. For example, a 150 pound person jogging at a pace of 6 miles per hour for forty minutes burns 456 calories.

But if that same person does not that much time, rope jumping for twenty five minutes will burn 285 calories. Rope jumping is another great cardiovascular exercise that can be done anywhere.

It tones the body completely and it is often used as a method of helping highly conditioned athlete reach the next level of fitness.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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