Physical Therapists NYC Covid-19 safe Close Close Button Physical Therapists NYC Covid-19 Safe

Home > Blog > What Is Cardiovascular Exercise?

Cardiovascular exercise is the exercise that gets your heart rate up, makes you breathe rapidly and deeply, and sweat. By adopting a good cardio routine, you can look forward to managing health risks and lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol. Schedule an appointment with the award-winning therapists and physicians at Physical Therapists NYC for personalized advice and care regarding your cardiovascular health. The best physical therapy experts recommend natural treatments designed to offer a comfortable and efficient solution to your health problems and help you develop a safe and effective cardiovascular routine for a healthy heart and body.

Cardio means heart and vascular means vessels that circulate fluids. Any activity that increases your heart rate and breathing and as a result, the circulation of blood and oxygen throughout the body to the muscles that are being worked is called cardiovascular exercise or in short, cardio. The more difficult the activity and the harder you go, the more demand is placed on your cardiovascular system.

Cardiovascular Exercise

What Is Cardiovascular Exercise?

Cardiovascular exercise is any type of activity that uses aerobic metabolism. During such activity, oxygen is heavily involved in the cellular reactions that produce the energy required to continue with the activity.

Cardiovascular exercises are vigorous activities that increase the heart rate and respiration and raise oxygen and blood flow throughout the body when large muscle groups of the body work repetitively and rhythmically. As a result, you breathe more deeply to maximize the amount of oxygen in your blood which helps you use oxygen most efficiently. Thus, you feel more energized and active, without getting tired quickly. They are also called aerobic or endurance exercises.

Cardiovascular exercises progressively challenge your most vital internal body organs. They improve the function and performance of the heart, lungs, as well as circulatory system. Cardio is also known for enhancing many aspects of health, including heart health, mental health, mood, sleep, weight regulation, and metabolism.

What Does Cardiovascular Fitness Mean?

Cardiovascular fitness or aerobic fitness refers to the ability of your body to take in and use oxygen while exercising. It is the result of your heart, lungs, muscles, and blood working together during the workout. When you exercise, the heart becomes more efficient with every beat as it pumps oxygen-carrying blood, the lungs work better in taking oxygen, and the muscles get more equipped to use oxygen.

Cardiovascular fitness is linked to a decline in blood pressure, reduced risk of developing coronary heart disease, lowered incidence of diabetes, decreased risk of stroke and heart attack, lower resting heart rate, lower fat mass, and increased bone mass. It also improves energy levels and increases resistance to illnesses and fatigue.

Cardiovascular Exercises

Some of the most common cardiovascular exercises include:

  • Brisk walking;
  • Running;
  • Jogging or jogging in place;
  • Burpees;
  • Bear crawls;
  • Swimming;
  • Water aerobics;
  • Cycling/bicycling;
  • Dancing;
  • Cross-country skiing;
  • Race-walking, volleyball, basketball, soccer, or racquetball;
  • Rowing;
  • Kayaking, paddling, or canoeing;
  • Circuit training;
  • Jumping rope;
  • Stair climbing;
  • In-line skating;
  • Martial arts;
  • Golfing;
  • Hiking;
  • HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training);
  • Mountain climbing;
  • Jumping jacks, squat jumps, split jumps;
  • Rollerblading;
  • Kickboxing.

Machines that are used for cardio exercises are:

  • Treadmill;
  • Stepping machine;
  • Stationary cycles;
  • Ski trainer;
  • Rowing machine;
  • Elliptical trainer;
  • Recumbent bike;
  • Upright bike;
  • Stairclimber;
  • Upper body ergometer;
  • Wave-trainer;
  • Versa-climber;
  • Precor AMT.

Best Cardio Workouts You Can Do At Home

Types of Cardiovascular Exercises

For an exercise to be cardio, it is must raise your heart rate and breathing rate into the moderate to vigorous intensity level, which is at least 50% of the normal rate for a minimum of 10 minutes.

Cardiovascular exercises can be divided into three categories. They include:

  • High impact cardio;
  • Low impact cardio;
  • No impact cardio.

High impact cardio

Any cardiovascular activity that involves having both the feet off the ground at the same point during the exercise is called high-impact cardio. It is also known as a weight-bearing exercise if you are supporting your body weight with your limbs, against the force of gravity.

Examples of high-impact cardio exercises include jumping rope, high-impact aerobic dance, and certain forms of advanced strength training.

Low impact cardio

Any cardiovascular activity during which one foot remains on the ground all the time is called low impact cardio. Low impact cardio exercise should not be confused with low-intensity cardio, as many types of low-impact activities are of high intensity.

Low impact cardio is a weight-bearing exercise and beneficial for maintaining healthy bones and conditioning the lungs and heart. Examples of low-impact cardio exercises include walking, hiking, and low-impact aerobic dance.

No impact cardio

When cardiovascular exercises are performed in water, the activity is classified as no-impact as being immersed in water reduces the pull of gravity on the body. Swimming and water aerobics are known as no-impact cardio activities.

Bicycling is also a no-impact cardio exercise as the tires and frame of the bike support most of the body weight. No-impact cardio such as cycling and water exercises are the best if you suffer from any arthritic condition or go through injury rehabilitation as they take away most of the jarring and pounding associated with land-based cardio activities.

Benefits of Cardiovascular Exercises

Cardiovascular exercises have many benefits. It is because these exercises engage the large muscles of the body in movement over a specific period which takes the heart rate to at least 50% of its maximum level.

Regular aerobics activity can help you develop a stronger cardio system with more capillaries delivering more oxygen to the cells in your muscles. You can also look forward to better stamina and endurance with each passing session.

Some specific benefits of cardio exercises include:

Better heart health

30 to 60 minutes of cardiovascular activity daily can result in building stronger muscles, including those of the heart that control your blood pressure, enhance HDL or good cholesterol, lower anxiety, and stress, and control blood proteins and fats. They contribute to blood clots, prevent heart disease, and keep blood sugar and diabetes in check.

Improved brain health

Engaging in a cardiovascular activity regularly helps the regions of the brain that control memory and thinking skills and help them grow in size too. Frequent cardiovascular activity also reduces the rate of shrinking brain size in older people, enhancing their cognitive functions.

Cardio can also help you enjoy a good night’s sleep which is very essential for mental health.

Increase in metabolic rate

All types of cardio exercises increase metabolism through the production of Fibroblast Growth Factor 21, also known as the FGF21 hormone. It increases the metabolic rate of the body, suppresses appetite, and helps in burning more calories.

Weight management

Cardio exercises increase the heart rate into the target heart rate zone. It is the zone where the body burns the most calories. Cardio helps with weight management by burning excess calories and controlling weight.

Exercises such as walking, swimming, running, and jogging burn excess calories over time, while moderate to high-intensity cardio workouts can burn a lot of calories per exercise session. Cardio exercises are highly effective for weight management and cutting down the extra pounds include jumping rope, running stairs, walking, rowing, cycling, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

Enhanced mood and energy levels

Cardiovascular exercises lead to increased secretion of endorphins, neurochemicals that cause a feeling of happiness. They also increase the production of mood-boosting hormones such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. With an enhanced mood, you feel more energized and ready to take on your routine activities in a much better way.

The increased release of hormones also reduces stress, boosts stamina, increases energy levels, and improves memory and mental focus, which leads to an overall feeling of wellness.

Stronger immune system

Regular workout increases the release of antibodies and white blood cells which improves the body’s ability to fight infections. The release of FGF21 also speeds up metabolism and strengthens the immune system. Cardio is very effective as it protects the body from several illnesses including hypertension, risk of stroke, osteoporosis, diabetes, and heart disease.

Keeps arthritis pain at bay

Cardiovascular exercises are very good for arthritis pain too. They keep the joint pain at bay and minimize the stiffness with activities that enhance movement.

How to Make the Most of Cardiovascular Exercises?

To make the most of cardiovascular exercise, you should engage in cardio activity for at least three days every week. Cardiovascular fitness can only be achieved when you make it a regular part of your life. The better you fit the exercises into your schedule, the better results and health you will achieve.

Cardiovascular exercise does not require a long period. Even short bouts, as short as 5 minutes each, are as effective as longer sessions provided the intensity level and the total cumulative workout time are equal. For instance, twelve 5-minute bursts of high-intensity cardio are as effective as a single 60-minute session. If you are unable to make time for a workout in your life due to a hectic schedule, cardio is a great option for you. The best thing about it is that you do not require any special equipment or membership to a gym to do a lot of aerobic exercises.

How to Do Cardiovascular Exercise?

Beginners should start with low to moderate-intensity activities such as walking, bicycling, swimming, dancing, jogging, martial arts, in-line skating, canoeing, golfing, and water aerobics. These exercises enable you to continue with them for a long time and gain desired health benefits. Choose the activities that you enjoy so that you can stick to them as you get along and reap their benefits.

It is better to increase the intensity of cardio over time rather than to increase the volume or length of an activity. Cardio is not something you should overdo. Spending hour after hour at a low to moderate pace will not get you any benefits. If you can do 30 to 45 minutes of activity 3 to 4 times a week, you should step it up a notch and go for its advanced form.

The fundamental guidelines for successful cardiovascular exercises include:

Starting slowly

Start slowly and simply. Begin with a 5-minute walk in the morning and then another 5-minute walk in the evening. Add a few minutes gradually and pick up the pace over time. Within a short time, you will be comfortable walking for 30 minutes a day.

As you begin, make sure to include activities that interest you and which you can do without any time or financial constraints. Viable options include hiking, jogging, cycling, rowing, running, and elliptical training. It is important to note that it can be any activity that increases your breathing and heart rate.

Warm-up first

At the start of every session, take 5 to 10 minutes to warm up your cardiovascular system and improve the flow of blood to the muscles. Warming up means you engage in lower-intensity versions of the cardio activity you intend to do before starting with the real thing. For instance, if you intend to take a brisk walk, warm up your body by walking slowly for a few minutes.


Conditioning your body is important. Moving at your own pace, you can condition your body to accomplish at least 30 minutes of cardio activity per day which can help you achieve better results in the long run. Cardio can benefit you most if you develop your aerobic capacity by increasing your heart rate, depth of breathing, and muscular endurance to the point that you can comfortably do at least 30 minutes of the chosen activity.

Cooling down

As each cardio session ends, you should take a 5 or 10-minute break to cool down. You can cool down by stretching the calf muscles, upper thighs (quadriceps), lower back, hamstrings, and chest. This post-workout stretching will help your muscles, lungs, and heart rate to return to normal conveniently.

Frequency of cardio workouts

The frequency of your workouts depends on your fitness level, your schedule, and any goals you may have. You should also consider the intensity of the workout as light, or moderate-intensity cardio workouts can be performed every day, but if you do high-intensity training, you will need rest days in between the workout.

The basic guidelines for a cardio workout are:

  • For general health – Try moderately-intense cardio 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, or vigorously intense cardio for 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week. You can also do a mixture.
  • For weight loss or to prevent regaining weight – You may need to do more than 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week to achieve your goals.
  • To maintain healthy body weight – You need about 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week to stay fit.

If you are new to exercise, want to be healthy but do not have a lot of free time, and are not worried about losing weight, exercising a little bit every day is good. If you have been exercising regularly for years, have been going to the gym and spending some time there, and are more focused on muscle-building muscles than burning fat, 3 to 4 times a week will be enough.

Cardio workouts have become the basis of any effective fitness program and the key to living a longer, more joyful life. The pay-offs are impressive too with improved mood, better sleep, and reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and some types of cancer. You must consult a trained physical expert to learn more about cardio and how it can help you move towards a better quality of life.

Cardiovascular exercise helps to increase overall stamina, burn calories and improve the function and efficiency of your heart and lungs. Health experts recommend cardio exercises for managing health risks and keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check. The goal is to put stress on the cardiovascular system to enhance its performance. The experienced and highly qualified physicians and therapists at Physical Therapists NYC offer the best advice regarding cardiovascular exercise and recommend cardio activity depending on the patient’s condition, fitness levels, and ability to work out.


PT Office Waiting Area PT Office Waiting Area 2 PT Office Entrance PT Office Front Desk
Our locations Manhattan PT Center Brooklyn PT Center Manhattan 80 Maiden Ln #905A New York, NY 10038 (212) 386-7979 Midtown Manhattan 12 E44 St, New York, NY 10017 (212) 386-7979 Brooklyn 145 Henry Street #1G, Brooklyn, NY 11201 (718) 673-6771

contact us
Book Now