When I say “cardio,” what immediately comes to mind?
An hour of drenched-in-sweat swearing you’ll never do it again spin class?
45 minutes of monotonous, boring AF elliptical training?
Tortuous attempts at running on your road trying not to feel and look ridiculous?
If you thought “Yep, that’s me!” to any of these 3 scenarios - THIS POST IS FOR YOU. It’s for those who despise exercising but have health and fitness goals you want to achieve.
Cardio, or cardiorespiratory exercise, is a form of activity that increases your respiratory rate in order to keep up with the demands for the increased need for blood to pump oxygen through your system and to get CO2 out of your system.
Why is cardio exercise good for you? Because it is scientifically proven that exercising your system in this way can:
Improve your mood
Increase your bone density
Lower your blood pressure
Manage your choloesterol
Improve your immune system function with vitamin D if you are outdoors.
Not all cardio is rated the same, though. There are 3 phases of work. Without nerding out too much on the physiological terms involved, here’s the gist:
Phase 1 Cardio: You have to breathe a little bit harder than at rest and the fuel being used most dominantly here is fat. How do you know you are working in Phase 1? Talk or sing out loud and see if you can still comfortably belt those words out. The keyword here is: COMFORTABLY. You’re not gasping for air by any means, but you are certainly moving your body. Examples of this type of activity are:
Making your bed
Walking around the office
Washing the dishes
Mind blown? Yes, ma’am, those daily chores you do are actually cardiorespiratory exercise! In very small bouts, but they sure do add up. Think about it: If you tend to lead a rather sedentary lifestyle because you have an office job or you binge-watch a program on Netflix for days at a time, these little chores that are performed frequently can add up!
Phase 2 Cardio: In this phase, you’re really starting to work more. You are breathing harder because now the fuel source has switched to carbohydrates which cause lactic acid production. In order to get that lactic acid byproduct out of your system (aka CO2), you need to exhale more aggressively and frequently. In this phase, you should still be able to talk and sing, but it is going to be a bit more uncomfortable. Some examples of Phase 2 cardio exercise are:
Power cleaning your house or garage
I just finished stacking wood. I think I did about 436 hip hinges (hah!) and I went continuously for 23 minutes (I timed it, for real). I could sing (I had my headphones in so let’s be honest, I was singing) fairly comfortably, but by the last 10 minutes or so, I was definitely taking in more frequent breaths to keep on singing.
You can see, for 23 minutes I did moderate-intensity cardiorespiratory exercise without setting aside a specific time or workout. It was a chore that got me moving and pumping and man, do I feel proud of what I accomplished! I can see my hard work and the product that came from it which provides immediate satisfaction. I also made a game out of it - I challenged myself to stack the pile of wood dumped off by my husband via his tractor bucket by the time he came back with the next delivery. I JUST MADE IT every time. And every time I was like BOOYAH! I DID IT! Talk about giving myself an esteem boost for the day! The challenge kept me motivated to keep up the pace I started at.
Phase 3 Cardio: Yep, you guessed it. This is the type of cardio where you are sucking wind. You can only get out a single word at a time, and even that is difficult. This type of cardio doesn’t last long because it is very difficult to keep up with blowing off that CO2 production. Examples of Phase 3 cardio are:
Playing sports like basketball, tennis, soccer
Jumping Rope, jumping jacks or jumping anything consecutively
Now, the whole point of this article is to show you a different way of thinking about cardio exercise. Cardio does not only equal a specified bout of time on a standard piece of equipment like a treadmill, elliptical, bike, or rower. You can increase your cardio EVERY DAY by what I call “Trading Up” an activity.
First, audit your current lifestyle activity levels. Do this assignment:
Take a piece of lined paper.
Make 3 columns.
Column 1 on the left: The time
Column 2 in the middle: The activity
Column 3 on the right: S, L, M, V
3. Account for ALL activity in a 24 hour period.
5AM-5:15AM Get up, move around,make coffee, let the dogs out L
5:15AM-6:15AM Sit around drinking coffee, read a book, perused the gram S
6:15AM-7AM Got ready for work L
7AM-7:15AM Took care of chickens, played with the dogs M
7:15AM-7:55AM Drive to work S
S = Sedentary. This is an activity that is done at rest.
L = Low intensity. This is Phase 1 cardio activity. Standing, moving around, etc.
M= Moderate Activity. This is Phase 2 cardio activity.
V=Vigorous Activity. This is Phase 3 activity.
Once you document 24 hours worth of a typical day of activity, add up each phase of activity.
In the above example, I have 60 minutes of Low-intensity activity, 15 minutes of moderate activity, and 95 minutes of sedentary activity.
If wanted to trade up, I would probably choose to make 10 minutes of that total Sedentary time to a Low-intensity activity, like unloading the dishwasher or washing the dishes from the night before.
That’s 10 more minutes that day that I didn’t spend in the Sedentary zone of cardio activity.
That’s a win!
So, if you are looking to increase your daily cardio activity, but can’t stand to think of going to the gym or using that stupid dusty treadmill in the basement, then use this technique to help you to find ways to move more throughout your day!