It certainly may seem like your heart may be beating out of your chest during a session, but is running a cardio exercise? We know it’s important to aim for a range of cardio, strength and flexibility exercises during an average week, but it’s sometimes hard to know which sports and activities fall into which category.
About 50 million Americans are passionate about running, jogging, or walking, and if you’re aiming to improve your cardio, we have good news: Running is a fantastic form of cardio exercise. Not only that, it is one of the best cardio exercises you can do when it comes to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, improving sleep quality and boosting cognitive function.
Along with the many benefits of running (opens in a new tab)it’s also a relatively inexpensive way to get your daily dose of exercise. Although you can definitely invest in one of the best treadmills (opens in a new tab) so that you can train in the comfort of your home, as long as you have a decent pair of sneakers, you can lace up and run anytime, anywhere.
What is cardio exercise?
“What sets cardio apart from other forms of exercise is its dependence on your body’s ability to use oxygen during a workout,” says Jack McNamara, a strength coach and clinical exercise physiology professor. “This use of oxygen, otherwise called aerobic metabolism, helps our body extract energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) from amino acids, carbohydrates and fatty acids to fuel our muscles, usually for more prolonged activities. That’s why you will do it. cardio is often heard referred to as aerobic exercise, which means with oxygen.
“The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) defines aerobic exercise as ‘any activity that uses large muscle groups, can be maintained continuously, and is rhythmic in nature.’ So technically, all types of physical activity count as aerobic exercise. , regardless of the intensity: cycling, dancing, hiking, swimming and even walking. ”
Jack McNamara (opens in a new tab) is a highly experienced strength coach and lecturer in clinical exercise physiology. Since he began his career in 2005, McNamara has trained numerous athletes, worked as a clinical exercise physiologist and taught graduate-level exercise science courses. His vast experience was recognized last year when he became the first person to receive the status of Master Trainer (Europe) and Chartered Practitioner (UK).
Most experts agree that to get the maximum benefits from cardio you should aim to move at a moderate or higher intensity – you can gauge whether or not you’ve reached “moderate” intensity by being able to speak but not sing while do you exercise.
Benefits of cardio exercise include improved heart health, aiding in the prevention or management of cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes, and reducing the symptoms of mental health problems such as depression and anxiety – plus, the runner’s level it’s definitely hard to beat!
Is running cardio?
Yes, running definitely counts as cardio exercise.
“Not only does running use large muscle groups continuously and rhythmically, it also makes our heart work harder and requires us to use more oxygen to support it,” says McNamara.
“Unless we work at very high intensities, such as sprinting, running will usually test our heart and lungs more than, or at least as much as, our muscles, at least at the start of a run. ! “
How to improve cardio fitness
Working on your technique is one of the best ways to make you work harder and safer during a run.
“For most of us, running is something we’ve ‘just done’ since we were kids, so we don’t actively pay attention to our running posture, technique or pace,” says McNamara.
“By shortening our pace and increasing our cadence – the total number of steps taken every minute – we can benefit not only from better cardiovascular fitness, but also from a reduced risk of injury and a more efficient running technique that leads to performance. best “.
Sprinting and anaerobic exercise
You can add some short, quick exercises like sprints to do some anaerobic exercise (opens in a new tab).
“Anaerobic exercise is a physical activity that causes the body to break down glucose for energy without oxygen,” says McNamara. “This usually happens inside the body when oxygen demand exceeds supply. Typically, these activities are short-lived with high intensity.”
It can be a great way to make your run work to strengthen your bones, as well as raise your lactic threshold (allowing you to work harder for longer) and improve overall power.
To increase the intensity of your workouts, McNamara recommends:
- Increase the number of sprint intervals
- Shorten active recovery / rest periods
- By increasing the duration of the difficult part of your intervals
- Change the terrain or add slopes
- By increasing your speed