Three fit people running on treadmills looking out a window. Two fit women surrounding one fit man.

Cardio vs Aerobic Exercises to Improve Your Overall Health

So is 30 minutes a day of Cardio vs. Aerobics the magic bullet you’ve been looking for?  The difference may shock you according to various research the winner is … either.

Aerobic exercise refers to oxygen absorption. The word “aerobic” is derived from the Greek “with oxygen.” Where Cardio refers to your heart, and the word cardio is derived from the Latin “cor” and Greek “kardia.” Both aerobic and cardio describe the goal of the exercise; aerobic exercise is an exercise that promotes a higher oxygen intake, and cardio training sessions are workouts that support a higher heart rate. Consequently, all exercises that help oxygen intake also support a higher heart rate. So even though Cardio and Aerobics are not the same things; all exercises that are Cardio are also Aerobics and vice versa.

With its health benefits ranging from disease prevention to stress reduction, cardio and aerobic exercises are some of the most important things you can do for your overall health. Though there is a lot more research now that shows High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has the same benefits as both Cardio and Aerobic exercise and is much more efficient and effective. Regardless not everyone likes to exercise at high intensities, and both cardio and aerobic exercise can help you live longer, be, and feel healthier and can help you prevent and reduce the effects of chronic health conditions.

Definition of Cardiovascular Exercise

Cardiovascular exercise also called cardio or now aerobic exercise, is any physical activity which raises your heart rate to between 60 to 85% of your maximum heart rate for an extended period, usually twenty minutes or longer.

Types of Cardio/Aerobic Exercises

Examples include walking, running, jogging, rowing, hiking, basketball, tennis, kickboxing, boxing, swimming, and aerobic/cardio classes; to name a few.

Health Benefits of Cardio 

Aerobic/cardio exercise can reduce the risks of many diseases and conditions, including:

  • Coronary Artery Disease. Heart disease is the primary cause of death for men and women in the United States. If you’ve had a heart attack, it is likely your cardiologist with prescribing cardio exercise as a treatment. When you achieve a higher level of aerobic fitness, it can help prevent a second attack and also decrease your risk of dying from coronary artery disease.
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure). If you have been struggling with high blood pressure, cardio a few times a week can help lower it.
  • Stroke. Aerobic exercise improves blood fats resulting in a lower build-up of plaques in your arteries. These deposits of plaques in blood vessels can lead to your brain and can result in a stroke.
  • Cancers. Cardio exercise helps lower the risk of diseases of the colon, prostate, uterine lining, and breast cancer. Cardio exercise helps combat colon cancer by helping digested food move through the colon more quickly. Cardio exercise lowers the risk of breast and uterine cancers by reducing body fat and decreasing estrogen production. Researchers are uncertain about the mechanism in which exercise lowers the risk of prostate cancer.
  • Insulin resistance disease. Aerobic exercise helps control blood sugar levels.
  • Type 2 diabetes. Aerobic exercise improves your ability to control your weight and reducing the likelihood of you being overweight or obese. Being overweight is the leading conditions that can lead to type 2 diabetes.
  • Obesity. Cardio workouts optimize fat loss by imposing a significant degree of fat burning requirement that utilizes the conversion of fats to energy, thereby reducing excessive fat storage.
  • Osteoporosis. Cardio exercise can slow bone mineral loss, help maintain posture, and improve your overall fitness.

Aerobic/cardio exercise can also help manage chronic disease and conditions in the following ways:

  • Cardio strengthens the heart. As your heart is strengthened through cardio, it will pump more blood for every heartbeat. Your heart will not beat as fast when resting or during exercise as it gets stronger.
  • Cardio improves circulation. A stronger heart muscle pumps blood more efficiently.
  • Cardio relieves chronic muscle pain and fibromyalgia. Aerobic exercise can stimulate the growth of tiny blood vessels (capillaries) in your muscles. Having more capillaries helps your body deliver oxygen to your muscles more efficiently and remove irritating metabolic waste products, such as lactic acid.
  • Cardio lowers your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes. Keeping your blood sugar within the target range can help you avoid long-term complications of diabetes, such as kidney failure or heart disease.
  • Cardio helps with weight management. Cardio alone will not support weight management. Cardio, combined with a healthy diet and appropriate strength training, will help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.

Other Health Benefits of Cardio:

  • Cardio improves stamina and reduces fatigue. Aerobic exercise should make you tired in the near term, i.e., during training and your recovery. But over the long run, You will have increased stamina and reduced fatigue.
  • Cardio improves muscle and bone strength. Your Muscles and bones are living tissue that responds to exercise by becoming stronger. Cardio allows us to maintain muscle strength, coordination, and balance, which in turn helps to prevent falls and related fractures.
  • Cardio improves your immune system. People who exercise regularly can be less susceptible to minor viral illnesses, such as colds and flu.
  • Cardio improves blood fats. Aerobic exercise increases the concentration of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol) and decreases the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) in your blood.
  • Cardio improves sexual performance. In 2003, scientists at the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health found that men who consistently ran at least three hours a week reported sexual activity like that of men two to five years younger.
  • Cardio reduces stress and anxiety. You will be releasing your excess negative emotions and adrenaline through exercise. Subsequently, you will be more relaxed and calm from which you can deal with the issues and conflicts that are causing your anxiety.
  • Cardio improves sleep. Cardio has a calming effect on anxiety and improves your sleep quality, both by reducing the time it takes you to fall asleep and reducing the total sleep time your body needs.
  • Cardio improves mood and sense of well being. Research has shown that aerobic exercise can improve mood by elevating serotonin levels.

Bottom Line on Cardio/Aerobic Exercise Improving Overall Health

You can significantly improve your well-being, overall health, and quality of life by introducing a moderate amount of aerobic exercise into your daily life. You will not only live longer and healthier lives by exercising regularly but also live more years independently.

References

1. US Public Health Service, Office of the Surgeon General. Physical Activity and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion; 1996.

2. Paffenbarger RS, Hyde RT, Wing AL, et al. The association of changes in physical-activity level and other lifestyle characteristics with mortality among men. N Eng J Med. 1993; 328: 538-545.[CrossRef][Medline] [Order article via Infotrieve]

3. Myers J, Prakash M, Froelicher V, et al. Exercise capacity and mortality among men referred for exercise testing. N Engl J Med. 2002; 346: 793-801.[CrossRef][Medline] [Order article via Infotrieve]

4. Pate RR, Pratt MP, Blair SN, et al. Physical activity and public health: a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Sports Medicine. JAMA. 1995; 273: 402-407.[Abstract/Free Full Text]

5. American College of Sports Medicine. Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. 6th ed. Baltimore, Md: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2000.

6. Fletcher GF, Balady GJ, Amsterdam EA, et al. Exercise standards for testing and training: a statement for healthcare professionals from the American Heart Association. Circulation.

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