Exercise can be broadly split into three main categories:

  • Resistance training, to build strength and maintain muscle mass
  • Cardiovascular exercise, to boost the health of your entire cardiovascular system
  • Movement and mobility, to improve mobility, flexibility, proprioception and endurance

This guide is all about cardiovascular exercise, which we will refer to as simply “cardio.”

When we hear cardio, we probably think of things like running, cycling, swimming or those “cardio machines” in the gym. While this would not be incorrect, cardio is technically an umbrella term for any exercise that increases your heart rate. By this definition, you can see that many more activities can have elements of cardio training in them.

Your heart is a working muscle, and working it makes it stronger. A stronger cardiovascular system means more capillaries can deliver more oxygen to all the cells in your muscles.

If you find the concept of going for a run or bike ride either daunting or uninspiring, maybe an activity like dance or playing a sport or game is more appealing. Most gym classes are a form of cardio. Weight training using supersets, circuits, or even just moves like heavy barbell squats or dumbbell lunge walks can have your pulse elevated and increase your breathing. Ever swung a kettlebell? You can easily find yourself in zone 5 within seconds (more on the zones below).

How much should you be doing?

The American Heart Association (AHA) has advice for all types of exercise. For cardio, they advise:

“Get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both, preferably spread throughout the week.”

Cardio is also often also referred to as ‘aerobic exercise’ yet this can be a somewhat misleading description. Aerobic exercise refers to exercise that requires oxygen to generate most of its energy, however “cardio” also includes things like HIIT and sprint training, which are largely anaerobic, and use a different energy pathway (namely the ATP-PC and Glycolytic systems) meaning they generate most of their energy without oxygen.

The terms “largely” anaerobic and “most of” their energy are used to indicate that while they are the dominant system being used, oxygen will always be at play in some way when generating energy. So, it can be argued that all training is technically aerobic to some extent. But there are a number of energy systems that take front seat at various points when exercising.

Energy Systems

When moving or exerting yourself in any way, energy is required. Certain complex systems are responsible for making sure enough energy is produced, as efficiently as possible.

We can break it down into three main systems:

Aerobic System

This is the system at play for more endurance-based forms of exercise. Long distance running or cycling, long walks or hikes, swimming, etc. Oxygen is introduced into a cell, stimulating the combustion of stored fat or carbohydrates to create energy in the form of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate).

Glycolytic System

Here you’re in your anaerobic training zone, using mainly glycogen (stored carbohydrates) for energy. High intensity training, fast runs, hypertrophic weight lifting, etc. ATP is created and used here too, but only a limited amount of ATP can be regenerated fast enough for a single bout of exertion in this zone.

ATP-PC System

The dominant system for intense and sudden bouts of strength or intensity. Sprinting, jumping, heavy weight lifting, etc. This can be dominant for a few seconds before the stores of phosphocreatine need to be replenished.

It is important to understand the overlap between these systems. There is no switch that is flicked when you hit 60 seconds or a certain heart rate. There are degrees of dominance with each, and you move between them constantly when exercising. It is common for some coaches to work or teach in absolutes, but the reality is more complex and fluid than that.

Heart Rate Zones

To further understand this concept, consider your heart rate. The rate or speed at which your heart pumps is associated with different zones. These zones depend on the exercise you’re doing, and how intensely you’re doing it. Different zones correlate with different energy systems.

Zone 1:

Warm Up / Recovery. 50-60% HRMAX.

Zone 2:

Aerobic endurance. 60-70% HRMAX.

A vital part of any program, popular and important for “longevity”.

Your body will get better at oxidizing (“burning“) fat and your muscular fitness will increase along with your capillary density.

Zone 3:

Breathing and pulse rate noticeably increasing. 70-80% HRMAX.

Effective for improving the efficiency of blood circulation in the heart and skeletal muscles. Lactic acid starts building up in your bloodstream and you become more aware of your working muscles.

Zone 4:

Mainly anaerobic energy systems at play now. 80-90% HRMAX.

Talking becomes tough (and impossible for long periods).

Your body will get better at using carbohydrates for energy, and you’ll be able to withstand higher levels of lactic acid in your blood for longer.

Zone 5:

Neuromuscular power: 90-100% HRMAX.

20-30 seconds maximum output here. The real zone you should be playing with for true HIIT (so long as you’re an intermediate to advanced trainee.)

Your heart and your blood and respiratory system will be working at their maximal capacity. Lactic acid will build up in your blood and you won’t be able to continue for long at this intensity.


There are many different types of cardio, and they can be divided into a few categories: low, moderate or high intensity, and steady state or intervals.

Low/Moderate Intensity

Steady State (LISS / MISS)

LISS is Low Intensity Steady State. As the names suggest, both LISS and MISS have you maintaining a low to moderate intensity (zones 1-3), and a steady state, typically for longer than 30 minutes but often for up to 60 minutes or more, especially when running or cycling longer distances.

This can best be described as exercise that increases your heart rate but use mainly your aerobic pathways for energy, and while almost any movement can be trained aerobically, the main exercises you will utilize for this type of training tend to be familiar favorites:

  • Running
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Rowing
  • Walking
  • Hiking
  • Aerobics classes

All of the above exercises can be trained anaerobically too, but they’re also the most common exercises used for lower intensity, aerobic training.

Zone 2, in particular, is an extremely bearable zone to be in for long periods of time and it boosts heart health and endurance while eventually tapping into your fat stores for energy rather than using available glucose for fuel. Note: using fat for fuel at this heart rate zone is different than losing body fat, a common misconception. This further attracts people interested in longevity or ketosis, as reducing glucose is a key part of that ethos. However, as beneficial as zone 2 is, it's only one piece of the puzzle. **

The longer time spent in zones 2 and 3 is why it is also sometimes referred to as endurance training, as both zones boost endurance and aerobic capacity when progressively trained.

Interval Training (LIIT / MIIT)

Low or Moderate Intensity Interval Training. You don’t always need to maintain a steady-state in zones 1-3. While not as well known as High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), research suggests LIIT and MIIT can be just as effective in some situations. Whereas HIIT focuses on bouts of high intensity followed by bouts of recovery, LIIT or MIIT involves intervals that cruise between zones 1-3. Think ‘walking and jogging’, or ‘jogging and incline walks’ rather than ‘jogging and sprinting’. Great for beginners, or anyone training for endurance races or specifically avoiding high intensities.

Anaerobic Training

Exercise that increases your heart rate but uses mainly your glycolytic or ATP-PC pathways for energy.

  • Sprinting
  • Jump Rope
  • Battle Rope
  • Crossfit class
  • Spinning class
  • Intense Weight lifting (very heavy lifting, supersets, classes)
  • Functional Fitness class (F45 etc.)
  • Bootcamp class (Barry’s etc.)

When training your anaerobic pathways, you’ll mainly be in heart rate zones 4 or 5. Working in the higher heart rate zones isn’t something you can sustain for very long, which is why many circuits, spinning classes, and high intensity workouts use intervals.

Moving between higher intensity (zones 4-5) and lower intensity (zones 1-3) intervals enables you to move between your anaerobic and aerobic systems so you can sustain higher intensity exercise for a longer time. The most well known example of this is HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training).


Higher Intensity

You may have never heard of HIT (High Intensity Training), but have probably done it.

HIT is often incorrectly marketed or coached as HIIT, but there are in fact significant differences between the two. It may seem pedantic to differentiate between them, and it’s not that important, big picture. But it’s worth at least understanding the difference between the approaches and mechanisms.

Both of these forms of exercise operate in zones 4 and 5. They do also both incorporate rest and recovery periods in which you will be floating mainly between zones 1-2, but the whole *point* of HIT and HIIT is to access those higher zones.

HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)

Traditionally, true HIIT will not usually involve work sets of more than 15-30 seconds, for the simple reason that HIIT was designed to tap into and develop the upper limits of your potential, and even the fittest athletes will struggle to push at their maximum for much longer that this.

The ratio between work and recovery varies depending on intensity, fitness level and goals. The higher the intensity, the longer the recovery time needs to be, therefore the work to rest ratio of HIIT is usually at its lowest 1:2 and its highest 1:6. Anything lower than 1:2 is probably HIT, and the reason is simple. To train at maximal intensities you need ample recovery. If you train intervals without ample recovery, you’re not working to your maximum and you’re not doing HIIT. **

Some popular work:rest HIIT splits are:

  • 30:60 (30 seconds work : 60 seconds recovery) - 1:2
  • 30:90 (30 seconds work : 90 seconds recovery) - 1:3
  • 20:40 (20 seconds work : 40 seconds recovery) - 1:2
  • 20:120 (20 seconds work : 120 seconds recovery) - 1:6 (flat out sprints with 2 minute rests)

HIT (High Intensity Training)

While maximum output is only really sustainable for 15-30 seconds at a time, it is possible to train anaerobically for longer, using anaerobic intervals. This can sometimes also be known as VO2max training, as it involves training at the threshold at which an athlete or trainee can still just about consume oxygen, around 80-90% Max HR.

A typical trained athlete can hold VO2 max pace or power for about eight minutes. Intervals allow one to push the envelope a bit harder, and spend more time in this zone per workout session.

These are popular with gym, boot camp and circuit training classes too, often following protocols such as 45 seconds work and 15 seconds rest. This could happen a few times in a row, then you may have a longer rest for recovery before repeating.

Or you may even move straight from exercise to exercise with a protocol such as EMOM (Every Minute On the Minute), a popular circuit protocol used at Crossfit Boxes.

Standard HIT protocols you may see could be:

  • 45:15 (45 seconds work : 15 seconds recovery)
  • 40:20 (40 seconds work : 20 seconds recovery)
  • 60:30 (60 seconds work : 30 seconds recovery)

At first glance they look very similar to HIIT, but note the work and rest ratios have been totally flipped.

Why Intervals?

The theory for using intervals for high intensity training is simple and sound: when working at higher intensities, you fatigue faster and cannot remain there for long periods of time, but by factoring in periods of recovery (eg: a jog or a walk) you can keep going for longer. *

This not only allows you to avoid burnout, it means you can tap into your higher ranges of potential multiple times per workout, which can provide some very interesting benefits:

  • Time is saved. While LISS and MISS tends to last 30 minutes to 1 hour or more, most interval training workouts tend to last anywhere from 4 minutes to 20 minutes, maybe up to 30 minutes if the intensity is lower.
  • Muscle is preserved. Research shows after a certain point, long distance steady state starts to eat into muscle tissue as well as fat tissue. Conversely, carefully timed HIIT has been shown to have excellent fat loss potential without being detrimental to muscle tissue as long as sessions last under or up to ~20 minutes.
  • Calorie burn is maximized. HIIT training burns 40-60% more calories per minute than LISS. However, you cannot and should not train at high intensities for as long as LISS. The fact that you can burn the same amount of calories in half the time is helpful for people who are short on time, as calorie burn is much more efficient with HIIT. Some argue that HIIT burns more calories from carbs and LISS burns more calories from fat, therefore overall LISS is better for fat loss. However, using fat for energy is not the same as losing body fat, which is a result of total energy balance regardless of the activity. If you have time and/or you prefer it, do LISS, if you are low on time and/or you prefer it, do HIIT.
  • When training at high intensities your average heart rate is near the anaerobic threshold, meaning you increase your ability to sustain higher heart rates for longer, moving your maximum heart rate and anaerobic threshold higher. This also means that your fat burning zone goes up, meaning you can train LISS with a higher heart rate and burn more calories from fat!
  • There is evidence to suggest HIIT increases Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) which is sometimes referred to as the after-burn effect. In short, post-exercise you create an oxygen deficit, which increases your respiratory rate and burns more calories to recover. It should be noted that LISS consumes more oxygen during exercise compared to HIIT, so overall the 24-hour oxygen consumption from LISS and HIIT is pretty well matched.

Intervals can be used for almost any type of exercise. If doing a standard cardio exercise such as biking or running, you will simply increase effort for a set time, and then decrease effort to recover before repeating. Gym classes or bootcamps will push you to work at your hardest (usually with weights or equipment) for a period of time, then allowed time to rest before repeating.

Ratios

The period of higher intensity is referred to as work, and the period of lower intensity is referred to as recovery. There are 5 main points that need to be addressed when performing intervals:

  • Which zone are you aiming for in your work phase?
  • How long is your work phase?
  • Which zone are you aiming for in your recovery phase?
  • How long is your recovery phase?
  • What variable(s) are you manipulating to change intensity? Eg: speed, resistance, incline etc.

Tabata

Tabata is a unique style of HIT formulated in 1996 by Japanese scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata and a team of researchers from the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo.

Sample workout 20 : 10 (20 seconds of work : 10 seconds of rest) - 2:1

The team conducted research on two groups of cycling athletes: one trained at a moderate intensity level while the second group trained at a high-intensity. The moderate intensity group worked out five days a week for six weeks, for one hour at a time. The high-intensity group worked out four days a week for six weeks, but their workouts were only four minutes long. Within this 4 minutes, they worked out for 20 seconds at a time, with 10 seconds of rest in between each set, totalling 8 rounds of work.

The results were extremely compelling. Group 1 had improved their aerobic system, but made little improvements in their anaerobic systems. Group 2 not only showed more improvements in their aerobic system than Group 1, but their anaerobic system had increased by 28 percent!

Tabata is another style of HIT that has been slightly amended for the masses, and it is important to remember that the results in the above-mentioned experiment involved working to exhaustive intensities while cycling. Studies since, which have used other forms of metabolic conditioning movements such as jumping and burpees have inconclusive evidence on its efficacy when compared in the same way to LISS.

If you attend a “Tabata class” in a gym, for example, which may involve multiple rounds of Tabata, or incorporate Tabata into a larger workout, you may find yourself working at sub-par intensities which could detract from the effectiveness of the workout. That is to say, you will be working at a high intensity, you will burn calories and you will be exercising - all these things are generally positive - but it will probably not stimulate the same results as the Tabata of the original experiment that made it better than one hour of moderate cardio.

Our recommendation would be to use Tabata if you are fairly well conditioned and are short on time, but use it sparingly, ideally on an exercise bike, and allow for adequate recovery post workout. Less is more with high-intensity training!

Every Minute On the Minute (EMOM)

A typical session of EMOM may involve 4 exercises and rounds of 5 minutes. You perform the first exercise for the prescribed reps OR the whole minute to the best of your abilities, then move straight to the next exercise and repeat, then the next, and after the 4th exercise you rest for 1 minute before repeating perhaps 2-5 times.

Sample Workout – 4 rounds | 20 minutes (following a suitable 10 minute warm up)

  • 30 x Kettlebell Swings - 1 minute
  • 20 x Squat Jumps - 1 minute
  • 20 x V-Up Crunches - 1 minute
  • 100 mtrs Rowing - 1 minute
  • Rest - 1 minute

This is a gruelling workout, sometimes performed in pairs or teams. The length of the work periods means you won’t be working at your maximum output, but by that last exercise you will certainly feel as if you are at your limit.

A lot of calories will be burned, a lot of lactate will have built up, and your endurance capacity will certainly be worked, but the drawback of such long bouts of high-intensity training can be that form will probably suffer as fatigue kicks in. *

Ladders

These are an interesting, progressive blend of all training zones, starting from zones 1-2 and moving gradually up to zones 4-5.

A typical session, using a treadmill as an example, could involve 1 minute at a fast walk, then every minute you increase the speed by 0.5 or 1 km/hr, until you cannot increase any further. You then return to your starting speed, recover, then either stop or start again.

Using another variable - incline - as an example, you might start with a fast walk, incline 4. Then every minute, increase the incline by 1 or 2 notches. Keep going up, while keeping the speed steady, until it’s as steep as you can handle with good form. At this point, decrease the incline back to 4, cool down and stop or recover and start again.

Sample Workout A - Treadmill | 10-15 minutes:

  • Speed 6 - 5 minute warm up
  • Speed 7 - 1 minute
  • Speed 8 - 1 minute
  • Speed 9 - 1 minute
  • Speed 10 - 1 minute
  • Speed 11 - 1 minute
  • Speed 7 - Recover for 1-2 minutes then climb back up the ladder

Sample Workout B - Treadmill | 10-15 minutes

  • Speed 6 / Incline 1 - 5 minute warm up
  • Speed 6 / Incline 4
  • Speed 6 / Incline 6
  • Speed 6 / Incline 8
  • Speed 6 / Incline 10
  • Speed 6 / Incline 12
  • Speed 6 / Incline 4 - Recover for 1-2 minutes then climb back up the ladder

Fartlek

The interval training method known as Fartlek - a Swedish term that translates to “speed play” - training was invented by the Swedish coach Gösta Holmér in the 1930s, to help athletes increase running speed and endurance. Unlike traditional interval training that uses specific timed or measured segments, fartleks are more unstructured, with work-rest intervals being implemented based on how the body feels. With fartlek training, you can plan a circuit of intervals in advance, or experiment with changes in intensity at random as you go.

Fartlek training is more flexible and not as demanding as traditional interval training, and it can be done on all types of terrain. It doesn’t need to be limited to running either; you can technically take the principles and apply it to your bike rides, swims, rows or any long distance cardio exercise with a wide range of possible intensities.

Sample Workout - Outdoor Trail Run | 26 minutes

  • Easy jog - 10 minute warm up
  • Fast run - 1 minute
  • og - 2 minutes
  • Sprint - 30 seconds
  • Walk - 2 minutes
  • og - 1 minute
  • Repeat 4 times

Which Type of Cardio is Best?

We covered many different types of exercises. Which is best?

We would generally recommend a mix of moderate intensity and high intensity cardio spread out over the week.

Take a look at your current situation...

• Do you play sports? If so, what type and for how long? What “zones” do you enter when doing so? (no need to worry about being too precise here, but if you use wearables to track your performance when exercising then you’ll be able to view your HR activity)

• Do you have any hobbies like hiking or bike riding at the weekend or swimming with the family?

As the AHA suggests:

“Get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both, preferably spread throughout the week.”

In a hierarchy of needs, and with no limiting factors in your way, just getting it in as best you can would take first place. After that, your specific fitness goals would come into play. For optimal health, we would suggest aiming for a mix of higher and lower intensities across the week. Eg: 1-2 lower intensity cardio workouts a week, plus 1-2 bouts of higher intensity, to run alongside whatever other exercise you partake in.

Let's look at the pros and cons of the different approaches, to help you decide what is right for you:

LISS / MISS

Pros

  • Can be helpful for getting back into exercise after injury
  • Beneficial part of a training regime if training for long distances
  • Great for beginners

Cons

  • Requires a lot of time
  • You can adapt to the stimulus quickly if intensity and exercise type stays the same
  • Can chew into muscle tissue if overused

HIT / HIIT

Pros

  • Very time efficient
  • Protective of muscle tissue up to a point
  • Generally better for fat loss and metabolism due to the variety of intensities and exercises used

Cons

  • Highly fatiguing, so more recovery is needed to reap the benefits safely
  • Not so suitable for complete beginners or the unconditioned

But... which is the best for you?

This is highly subjective, and largely comes down to 4 main factors.

Run through these questions now, and note down your answers. We’ll remind you of them at the end of the guide, too. This should give you a good idea of where to start and also where to go. ***

1. What is your current fitness level?

  • Are you just starting out with exercise having been sedentary for some time? If so, probably avoid high intensities for now and focus on low to moderate steady state or intervals as you condition yourself.
  • Have you been exercising or training for a little while? If so, you could explore some high intensity training using some of the protocols mentioned above or by attending a class such as Spinning or Body Pump.

2. How much time do you have?

  • Do you have 30-60 minutes or more to spend on cardio, 2-3 times a week? LISS or MISS could be an option.
  • Or would you like to condense your cardio workouts while still getting the benefits of steady state training? Interval training that suits your current fitness level may be better.

3. What are your goals?

  • Are you working toward a specific race like a marathon or triathlon? Longer distance zone 2-3 training focusing on running, cycling and swimming will be an essential part of your routine, but for optimal progress some zone 4-5 training would be beneficial too.
  • Do you simply like going for hikes in the wilderness or long bike rides at the weekends? If this happens regularly enough, this can be your main source of cardio training! Supplement with resistance training and any extra cardio work as needed.
  • Is body composition, muscle and strength a priority? A combination of HIIT (due to it being the least destructive form of cardio for muscle tissue), HIT (by way of things like functional strength circuits or kettlebell training) plus standard strength training to build muscle would be our optimal suggestion.
  • Would you just like to keep your heart healthy and body fat % under control? We would still suggest combining 1-2 high intensity workouts a week with 1-2 steady state training workouts, but research shows that by and large steady state and intervals are as good as each other for this when energy balance is equated, so do what fits your schedule.

4. What do you enjoy the most?

  • This is perhaps the most important question. What do you actually prefer or enjoy?
    • Like running? Run.
    • Like swimming? Swim.
    • Play a sport? That counts.
  • Do you enjoy long runs outside, watching Netflix on an exercise bike or swimming lengths in the pool? Then steady state cardio may be more for you.
  • Do you like the rush you feel when you hit higher intensities? Then perhaps HIT and HIIT are more your thing.
  • Do you like the social and motivational aspect of gym classes? Go to more gym classes!

When should you do it?

This is a good and common question. Cardio is but a piece of the whole exercise pie. For optimal health, resistance training must be a part of your routine too.

So, when is the best time to do your cardio training? Before or after resistance training? Does doing it fasted mean you lose more body fat? And how does it fit around your other training or hobbies such as playing football or hockey on a Monday night?

Muscle Recovery

Recovery is a key factor to consider when deciding when to do exercise. Ideally, after training muscle groups to a certain level of intensity (eg: resistance training, HIT / HIIT or even long distance steady state) you should rest said muscle groups for at least 48 hours.

If you did a full body, HIT functional strength class, we would ideally recommend not doing any resistance training the next day, and vice versa.

If you did sprint training one day, we would ideally recommend not doing a lower body strength workout the next day.

With steady state cardio, we suggest taking the actual activity into account and considering how much impact or stress it caused your joints and specific muscle groups, to determine what exercise (if any) you should do or avoid the next day.

For example: if you went for a 90 minute run, this would be relatively stressful on the lower body, so perhaps avoid any lower body workouts for a day or so, but you could do some upper body work. Same thing if you went for a long distance bike ride. However, if you went for a 30 minute run, you are probably OK to train as you like the next day. In this case, your fitness experience will also come into play, so listen to your body and use some common sense.

CNS Recovery

HIT and especially HIIT are both highly taxing on your heart and CNS and as such we recommend ideally partaking in this kind of training 1-3 times a week with at least 48 hours rest from any other high intensity training in between.

Before or After Resistance Training?

In most situations, we would suggest cardio after resistance training. This is for the simple reason that being able to perform optimally during a resistance training workout is key to getting the most out of that workout, and reducing fatigue will help reduce risk of injury too. Too much cardio before resistance training will increase fatigue and reduce performance, so it brings no benefits to do it before.

The only instance we would suggest cardio before resistance training is OK, is if endurance is your primary goal. But even in this situation, if you could, cardio after resistance would make a lot more sense.

Fasted Cardio

“Train fasted, use fat for fuel, lose more body fat” is common advice you may hear. It sounds logical, but is not so simple. For anyone attempting to use exercise to lose bodyfat, we recommend reading the entire bodyfat guide, which goes deeper into the science of this complex topic.

If two people had an identical caloric deficit and macro balance, and both did exactly the same workouts, but one did their cardio fasted and one did it fed, they would both lose more or less the same amount of body fat. Any difference from fasted cardio would be negligible.

Training while fasted does mean you use fat cells for energy, but the body is constantly jumping between fuel sources throughout the day and adapting as it does so. The total energy deficit dictates whether actual body fat is lost or not, rather than the specific energy system that was used.

Many people have had excellent results training fasted first thing in the morning, and some studies have shown apparent benefits. But more recent more thorough research has shown otherwise. When looking at these studies, you must take into account all the variables that are at play. What happens when you wake early to do cardio instead of eat breakfast? You swap taking in energy (food) with putting out energy (exercise). You also start the day in an energetic and positive way, which may impact your food choices and level of activity for the rest of the day.

You may eat more, but you’re could also eat more healthily, choosing less fast or processed food. Eating more protein as a result of training could have a favorable thermic effect on your system.

In many ways, training fasted early in the morning can be good strategy. Be sure to understand why it is and the mechanisms, which go beyond just using energy from fat or being classified as the “fat burning” heart rate zone. *

Cardio and Sports

Do you play sports once or twice a week at a local club or with friends? If so, apply the same rest and recovery logic here that we have detailed above, and also count this sport as part of your weekly cardio output.

Tracking and Maintaining Progress

For many people, just doing the recommended amount of cardio is more than enough. No need to get too serious and start tracking speeds, distances, times etc. Just enjoy it as a supplementary part of your exercise program alongside resistance training.

However, do you have a specific cardio goal, such as a long distance run or endurance event? Is cardio your true passion and something you spend a lot of time thinking about?

If so, taking note of variables like speed or distance could be recommended to monitor your progress.

Progressive Overload

This is usually discussed when training for strength and muscle, and is the gradual increase in intensity upon the central nervous system (CNS) and muscles over time. However, just like when lifting weights, when developing any aspect of fitness the gradual increase of intensity is key for progress.

If you run 5 km in 30 minutes one week, try to beat that time a little next week.

If you swim 20 lengths in week, try and swim 22 or 24 next time.

If you do 10 minutes of 20:40 HIIT, try to push that to 12 minutes or more…

VO2 Max

VO2 Max refers to the maximum rate of oxygen consumption measured during exercise of increasing intensity, and probably the best market of cardio health to track. It is something Gyroscope can highlight in your trends if you exercise with your Apple Watch. The more consistent you are with cardio workouts, and the better you apply progressive overload, the higher your VO2 max may be and the more it will climb. **

Just like the calorie burn estimates you may see after a workout, these numbers are very hypothetical. It is important to realize they are statistical guesses based on an average human, rather than direct measures of what happened in your body. Though they are useful data points to consider, don’t take them too literally.

Adding cardio to your life

Cardio is certainly not limited to just running, cycling, or swimming, and may be part of activities you already do.

The question now is how will this affect your exercise routine? As we have detailed above, the best type of cardio is extremely subjective and dependent on your personal factors. While we can tell you how much is optimal for health and the pros and cons of each type, you should figure out what fits best with your particular goals, lifestyle, likes, and fitness level.

To determine the best type of cardio for you, review these key questions. Most importantly, have fun improving your fitness and seeing how all your heart metrics improve within Gyroscope!

  • 1. What is your current fitness level?
  • 2. How much time do you have?
  • 3. What are your goals?
  • 4. What do you enjoy the most?