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.