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The benefits of cardiovascular exercise – and when it should be done

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Don't forget to do your cardio! It may be the very thing standing between you and your goals.{ }

The cardio aspect of a workout is just as important as any other component because it is how gym-goes build up their endurance and burn substantial calories. That’s not all it’s good for, either; cardiovascular exercise offers a host of benefits for all different types of people, from those who live a sedentary lifestyle to those who are on their feet 24/7. An increase in blood circulation, oxygen supply, blood sugar control and even memory are just a few of the many perks that come with cardiovascular training.

Still, despite the obvious benefits cardio exercise presents, poor endurance seems to be fairly common denominator amongst fitness enthusiasts – especially those who are new to the lifestyle. Some find the repetitive nature of these movements boring, while others think the long-bouts of continuous exercise might kill their gains. Regardless of the reason, it’s no surprise that activities such as running, rowing and biking are among the most avoided, and even sometimes despised, in a gym setting.

With that being said, those seeking ways to lose weight are urged to practice these exercises. The equation for doing so, according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, is pretty simple: in order to lose weight, you need to consume less calories than you burn. One of the best ways to burn the most calories is by training your cardiovascular and respiratory systems early and often. This isn’t to say you should only be running, but avoiding such activity will only further limit your progress in the gym, resulting in a much more difficult path to shedding that pesky weight.

Coming to terms with this is a big step forward simply because you’re accepting what must be done in order to reach your goals. Once you’ve done this, however, you’ll want to make the most of the sweat-sesh you’re about to endure. After all, a person who hates cardio is going to want to get the best bang for their buck while doing it, right?

When is the best time of day for cardio?

Every person is different. There is no set time of day that is better or worse for cardio. Some trainers may tell you that fasted cardio, or cardio on an empty stomach (i.e. in the morning right after you wake up) is the best way to lose weight, but studies on that seem to be conflicted at best.

The right answer is that you should be working out whenever you can fit it into your schedule. Morning, afternoon, night, whenever – at the end of the day, getting to the gym is much more essential than when you go. Now, once you’re there, deciding when you’re going to do what is a little bit more important.

Should I be doing cardio before or after weights?

Before we get into this, let’s dispel the myth that body builders can’t put on substantial amounts of muscle if they do cardio. Just ask Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who looks like a walking truck despite doing cardio six times per week.

Now that that’s out of the way, when should you add that cardio session to your workout?

Well, the best time to do cardio as opposed to traditional weight-lifting is on a separate day or time altogether. This, however, isn’t necessarily convenient for many gym members and thus could deter them from cardiovascular workouts altogether. Should you need to perform both on the same day, it is much more beneficial to do cardio after your barbell/dumbbell routine. Why? Simply put, a person’s glycogen stores will be far less depleted after a weight-lifting session than after a cardio session. Therefore, a cardio session after weight-lifting will be considerably more valuable than a weight-lifting session would be after cardio.

What is the best form of cardio?

This is a very vague question and solely depends on your goals. If you’re training for a marathon, then running long distances will be best for you. If you’re a swimmer, then being in the pool as much as possible is likely going to yield the best results. If you’re an average gym-goer who is looking to strip yourself of a few extra points, then HIIT is the best option available because this form of exercise keeps your heart rate elevated at a higher level than most other forms of cardio.

Regardless your preference, any form of cardio can be a great way to get better results. Performing these workouts at the right time can only help, so find which cardio workouts work best for you and start building the best body you’ve ever had!

Please consult with your physician before starting any workout regime to ensure the exercise is safe and right for you.

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