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Let's start off with something that most people already understand - the benefits of cardiovascular activity far outweigh the cons. This aspect isn't really up for argument. With that out of the way...an entire day could be spent bickering about which particular type of cardio activity is truly best for the heart, but that's just not the point here. Instead, the focus will be on a simple explanation of each of the basic types of cardiovascular activity and exactly how they affect the body.
To understand how each exercise is beneficial, it is first necessary to understand the energy systems. The body uses three distinct energy systems to make movement happen - phosphagen, glycolitic, and oxidative. Each of these energy systems performs a different function as it relates to cardiovascular conditioning. The Oxidative system relies on oxygen, as the name implies, and always comes into play during any activity exceeding around 1 minute in length. The glycolitic systems functions in the middle range, taking over when the exercise length sits between 20 and 40 seconds. Finally, the phosphagen system exerts the most control when the exercise is under 15 seconds in length - a 100-meter sprint, for example. While there is much more to each of these specific energy systems, these basic functions will do just fine for now.
With a basic understanding of these systems' involvement in each type of exercise, it is finally time to look into the wide array of cardiovascular activities that may be performed.
- Jogging. Whether performed on the treadmill or out in the wilderness, this aerobic activity is considered to be one of the most beneficial ways to exercise. Unfortunately, jogging outside is a very high impact movement. It loads a great deal of stress onto the joints. Consider this carefully as you choose your arena. Jogging is as aerobic as exercise comes.
- Elliptical. This activity is very similar to jogging and carries the same benefits. It may be wise to rotate between the treadmill and the elliptical in order to avoid boredom and stagnation.
- Biking. While biking generally falls behind jogging in terms of stress on the heart, it is still a very viable option in any sound workout regimen. Unlike running, biking may be performed safely outdoors without having to worry about joint impact. Biking is generally considered an aerobic exercise.
- Skipping Rope. Remember Rocky? Who doesn't, right? He was definitely onto something with the jump rope. Over the years, it has been recognized to be a great force in the field of cardiovascular conditioning. For those looking for a change, pick up a jump rope and give it a try. Depending upon speed and duration, this exercise will most likely involve each of the three energy systems.
- Sprinting. Any athletes out there? Utilize this movement to get faster, stronger, and quicker. Both the glycolitic and phosphagen systems will likely come into play during the sprint, depending on the duration.