What is Cardio, Really? You Have Questions, We Have Answers

The “C” word. No, not that word. The other word! That’s right, we’re talking about cardio.

We all have an idea of what cardio is… physical activity that burns those evil things called “calories” that are tragically found in all our favorite foods and beverages. But what really is cardio? What is it doing to your body? And, finally, is cardio worth it?

We’ve done all the research, so sit back, relax, and read on to find out if cardio is right for you.

what is cardio

Breaking it Down

Cardio is short for the term “cardiovascular.” In order to understand what cardio actually is, let’s break down this term down:

Cardio – vascular

“Cardio” is a derivative of the Greek word meaning “heart,” while “vascular” is a scientific term meaning “pertaining to the vessels that convey fluid.” In whole, cardiovascular is referring to the system in your body controlled by your heart that delivers oxygen to your cells via the blood stream. Another word for the cardiovascular system is the circulatory system, sound familiar? Feel like you’re in high school biology again? We do, too.

Basically, cardio is exercise that works to strengthen your circulatory system, which includes your heart and blood vessels, two VERY important parts of your body.

what is cardio

How it Works

How exactly does one ‘strengthen’ their circulatory system?

It’s simple. Get up, get out, and get your heart rate going. Experts have said that keeping your heart rate up for 30-60 minutes, 3-7 days a week will strengthen your heart and blood vessels, leading to tons of benefits for your health and well being. If you’re a pro athlete or have a heart condition, it is essential to measure your heart rate. However, experts have said that it isn’t necessary to plan your workout around your hart rate if you’re simply trying to stay healthy. A common rule of thumb is that if you are able to easily keep a conversation during your workout, then you aren’t working hard enough.

what is cardio

Choose Cardio Right for YOU

One great thing about cardio is that you can do it anytime, anywhere. You don’t need any fancy machines or memberships to get some good old fashioned exercise. Here are ways you can get active:

  • Take a bike ride to the grocery store.
  • Go for a run. First timer? Check out our Running For Beginners guide.
  • Jump some rope.
  • Go Skiing!
  • Take a workout class with friends.
  • Go for a swim. Click here for some swim exercise inspo!
  • Take a walk through your neighborhood.
  • Play tennis.
  • Play pick up football with friends.
  • Take a stab at home exercise. Check our at-home CrossFit guide for some quick workouts!

Of course, this list isn’t definitive. There are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of ways you can get your heart rate going!

what is cardio

Benefits of Cardio

There are TONS of benefits of cardio. Strengthening your heart and blood stream will lead to endless health benefits:

Yes, You Will Burn Calories

Consistent exercise will help burn off calories. Also, cardio helps increase your endurance, meaning your will body burn calories much easier throughout the day as well.

Preventative Benefits

Cardio will help fend off tons of diseases and conditions. It decreases the chance of stroke, help protect against Alzheimer’s, reduce the chance of developing type 2 diabetes, and fight osteoporosis, among many other benefits.

You’ll Look Great

Besides the benefits of keeping a healthy weight, exercise will also help keep your skin clear and healthy. Cardio was the Proactiv before Proactiv.

The Ultimate Mood Booster

“Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.” – Elle Woods, Legally Blonde

Elle Woods is certainly right! Cardio combats depression, improves self-esteem, and fights anxiety.

You’ll Get More Sleep

Cardio during the day has been proven to help you fall asleep easier at night.

No 3 p.m. Crash!

The endorphins released from your workout will give you more energy throughout the day. Your increased endurance over time will give you more stamina and reduce fatigue.


Disadvantages of Cardio

Like it or not, cardio does have some disadvantages:

Physical Injuries 

High impact exercise puts stress on your joints. Repetition of this stress can lead to temporary or more serious injuries. In order to avoid injuries, be sure to do prior research on how to properly perform your chosen exercise and be sure to take time to recover.


Yes, we know we just said that cardio can improve your sleep. However, be sure to avoid exercising right before bed because you’ll be riding that endorphin high way into the early hours of the night!

Heart Injury

Even though cardio is meant to decrease stress on the heart over time, the temporary acceleration during your workout can be damaging to those with certain medical conditions and may lead to a heart attack or other negative reactions. Be sure to check with your doctor if you are unsure if cardio is right with you!

Increased Caloric Intake

Studies have shown that people often eat more food when they work out. It’s always good to treat yo’self, but if you’re looking to scale down on the pounds, your diet will have to do the same.

Obviously, the benefits of cardio definitely outweigh the negatives; just a few minutes every day could certainly change your life! What are you waiting for? Join our #66Days Challenge to make cardio a habit in your daily routine!