• Ashley Miller-Dykeman

Work Out Your Heart With Cardio


Woman lacing her shoes before a cardio workout.
Photo: RgStudio/iStock

We’ve all heard about “cardio”, but what’s the point? In this article we’ll tell you a little more about cardio exercise, your cardiovascular system, and why your heart needs a little workout every now and then.


Let’s start with your cardiovascular system


You are made up of many complex systems that work together to keep you functioning. One of those systems is your cardiovascular system. Fundamentally, this system is made up of your heart pumping your blood through your blood vessels.


It seems simple, but your cardiovascular system is responsible for transporting nutrients, oxygen, and hormones to the rest of your body’s systems and for removing waste products. Without this system, your body cannot function.


Caring for your heart


Your heart is at the center of your cardiovascular system, which is why heart health is so important. If your heart stops pumping blood (or pumps less effectively), your body doesn’t get the things it needs and stops functioning.


So, how can you keep your heart healthy?


One part of heart health is eating a healthy, well-balanced diet full of fruits, veggies, lean protein, healthy fats, and whole grains.


Another part of heart health is exercise.


Giving your heart a good workout


Your heart is a muscle, just like the hundreds of other muscles you have across your body. In the same way that the muscles in your legs and arms are meant to be moved and exercised, so is your heart.


However, exercising your heart is a little different than exercising your biceps or abs. Instead of lifting weights, your heart is worked out through the process of making it pump faster or harder than it would normally. This is commonly called cardio, or aerobic, exercise.


By doing regular cardio sessions, your heart and your blood vessels, which carry blood through your body, become stronger and more efficient. Cardiovascular exercise can also help lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and encourage weight loss.


What counts as cardio?


Cardio is any type of exercise that gets your heart pumping and makes you breathe a heavier.


There are lots of different ways to get some cardio, but here are 3 fundamental exercises:

  1. Walking or jogging are both easy, equipment-free cardio exercises that most people can do. If you’re new to exercise, it might be a good idea to start with walking before moving on to jogging or running.

  2. Swimming is a low-impact exercise, making it perfect for people with joint pain or problems.

  3. Biking is another low-impact cardio option. Biking can be done outside, or inside on a stationary bike. Though it requires some equipment, it’s a great way to get cardio without the impact of activities like running.


What to expect with cardio


Cardio is meant to make your heart beat faster, and your breathing might become a little labored as you exercise. If you’re new to cardio exercise, you can expect to feel tired, sweaty, and maybe a little winded after you finish.


To make cardio a part of your routine it’s helpful to start slowly and work your way up to longer workout sessions or higher intensity exercises. Too much, too fast can lead to injury or make you feel burnt out.


After you exercise, it’s normal to expect some muscle soreness for a day or two afterward. That is a sign that your muscles have been worked and are being repaired. A few stretches and a light walk or yoga session can help.


Keep in mind that you should still be able to breathe when doing cardio exercises. If you feel light-headed, unable to breathe, or notice pain in your chest, you should stop exercising and see a doctor.


Want to make cardio a part of your routine?


Exercise can be intimidating, but if you start slow, you can reap the benefits. The TOVI app will help you make it happen. Download the app today. It's free!


Reviewed by:Dr. Tara Coletta, Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry


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