In the first part of this series on heart rate we discussed how it is not the faster, but the stronger heart beat that benefits your heart with cardio. This is important because some types of exercise raise your heart rate but do not create a stronger muscle contraction. Just because your heart rate goes up, it does not mean you are doing ‘cardio’.
Using the word cardio for cardiovascular type exercise can lead to this misconception. Cardio means heart, but the second half of that word is where more of the action really takes place. Your vascular system is what delivers oxygen to the moving muscles. ‘Cardio’ exercise involves not just your heart, but all parts of your cardiovascular system; your lungs to take in oxygen, your heart to pump the oxygen, your blood vessels to transport it, and your muscles ability to use it. All of these parts of the system get stronger with regular cardiovascular exercise.
When you do regular cardiovascular exercise:
- your lungs become more efficient at taking in oxygen
- your heart becomes a stronger pump
- your vessels grow to supply blood to more areas of your heart muscle and exercising muscles
- Your exercising muscles grow more ‘equipment’ for using oxygen
Oxygen is the big deal because it is what allows your muscles to produce fuel in a long lasting way. Without oxygen, fuel production burns out pretty quickly. The better equipped your body is at using oxygen, the longer it can sustain a wide range of levels of exercise. The cool thing is, even when one part of this cardiovascular system is not functioning best, the other parts still adapt so you can improve stamina. So even if you have asthma or heart disease, you can still improve your cardiovascular system and your exercise tolerance.
The catch is, your body builds that ‘machinery’ to use the oxygen only when you do cardiovascular exercise regularly. The good news is, with consistency over just a few weeks your body adapts to help you fuel muscles longer without getting as tired. The important fact is, it only takes about three days of not doing cardio for your body to ‘forget’ and start to lose some of this equipment. So consistency at least three days a week is your best bet for building and maintaining stamina.
Next week we will continue to look at why cardio is so much more than heart rate.
Keep moving, be well,