Six-pack abs, a healthier heart, weight loss, endurance and performance are just some of the many benefits that doing cardiovascular training can provide. Of course you want every benefit that comes with the energy and effort that you put into your workout, so it is essential to understand how the intensity and duration of your cardio workouts affect your body and fitness goal. Cardio workouts are classified in two main groups: Moderate and Vigorous intensity.
Any activity that causes your breathing and heart to speed up, from mowing the lawn to running a marathon, is an aerobic or cardio exercise, but the intensity level is dependent upon how hard your body is working while engaged in the activity. Both moderate and vigorous forms of cardiovascular activities are considered aerobic, which means that as you perform them your body uses large amounts of oxygen. The difference between the two is related to how hard your body is working; you can determine the intensity level of your cardio by the physical signs that your body tells you and using the talk test.
- Moderate intensity aerobic activity means you’re working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat. Talk Test – One way to tell is that you’ll be able to talk, but not sing the words to your favorite song.
- Vigorous intensity aerobic activity means you’re breathing hard and fast, and your heart rate has gone up quite a bit. Talk Test – If you’re working at this level, you won’t be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath.[i]
So which is best for you, moderate or vigorous intensity cardio?
That depends on your personal goal and preference. For example, if you are someone who prefers to get their workouts done fast or has time constraints, then doing vigorous intensity cardio may be more suited to your needs. On the other hand, if your goal is to run a marathon then you need to train your body to endure moderate intensity cardio work over a long duration of time so your body can adapt.
The most important thing for your health is to make sure that you regularly challenge your body by doing cardio intensive activities. At a minimum you should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, but understand that you attain greater health benefits when you spend more time doing cardio than the minimum.[ii]
Find activities and an intensity level that leave you feeling invigorated about your cardiovascular workout. Also, create fun goals to achieve like running a 5k race, hiking a challenging trail or competing in a basketball tournament that keep you motivated along the way to sculpting a healthier you!
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[i]Information obtained from http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/adults.html#Aerobic