Cardiovascular exercise

Cardiovascular exercise, Cardio exercise

A complete body workout

The definition for cardiovascular (CV) training is: ‘physical conditioning that exercises the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels’. In other words, when you do a CV session, you’re giving your heart, lungs and circulatory system – in addition to any other muscle groups that you use – a good workout. CV exercise is extremely important to your health.

Cardiovascular, or aerobic exercise is complementary to anaerobic exercise. Aerobic literally means "with oxygen", and refers to the use of oxygen in muscles' energy-generating process. Aerobic exercise includes any type of exercise, typically those performed at moderate levels of intensity for extended periods of time, that maintains an increased heart rate. In such exercise, oxygen is used to "burn" fats and glucose in order to produce ATP, the basic energy carrier. Initially during aerobic exercise, glycogen is broken down to produce glucose, but in its absence, fat starts to decompose instead. This latter is a slow process, and is accompanied by a decline in performance level. The switch to fat as fuel is a major cause of what marathon runners call "hitting the wall." Anaerobic exercise, in contrast, refers to the initial phase of exercise, or any short burst of intense exertion, where the glycogen or sugar is consumed without oxygen, and is a far less efficient process. Operating anaerobically, an untrained 400 meter sprinter may "hit the wall" after only 300 meters. Different types of CV exercise.

The many types of cardiovascular exercise

There are many different types of CV exercise, but the most effective CV exercises are those that use the largest muscle groups in the body and require you to support your own bodyweight while exercising. So, walking, jogging and running are excellent for your CV workout because they fulfil both criteria: they use the large muscles of the legs and you have to stand up throughout your workout. On the other hand, a hand-cycling machine – which you could find in a gym – is far less effective for CV exercise, because you will be using the smaller muscles of the arms and will be seated throughout your workout.

In addition to keeping your heart and lungs in shape, CV training burns calories and is your primary tool for weight management. For example, walking, jogging and running burn approximately 100 calories per mile covered – so walking two miles each way to and from work will burn off the equivalent of a half a kilogram of body fat in a fortnight! Also, you will tone up the muscles employed – usually the legs – and release endorphins during exercise. Endorphins are the ‘feel-good’ hormones that give you that buzz after a workout.

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