What Does Cardiovascular Mean? A Look at Aerobic Exercise (Cardio)
So, what does cardiovascular mean (in terms of exercise)? Let’s break it down.
There are two main types of exercise that we can engage in — aerobic and anaerobic exercise. These are terms that were first coined in the 1960s and 70s, back when aerobic exercise first rose in popularity.
Aerobic exercise is often better known by the term “cardio,” which is short for “cardiovascular.” You’ve likely done this type of exercise hundreds or thousands of times as a child, whether it be sports, recess, or just playing outside.
That’s probably the answer to the question you’re asking — but let’s talk definitions.
What Does Cardiovascular Mean Anyway? What Does the Word Itself Mean?
The word “cardiovascular” simply means, “of or relating to the heart and blood vessels.”
Therefore, cardiovascular, or cardio, refers to exercise that strengthens your heart by increasing your heart rate temporarily. This includes a number of exercises, such as running, biking, swimming, or jogging. This is also known as “aerobic exercise.”
This is in contrast to “anaerobic exercise,” which generally refers to exercise that “[forces your muscles] to work very hard for a brief time.” This is your classic weight lifting, but it can also include other types of exercises, like high intensity interval training (HIIT).
Much like anaerobic exercise, cardiovascular exercise builds muscle, but instead of building up your biceps, it builds up your heart.
Your heart is a muscle and in many ways is very similar to your other muscles. If you force it to work harder, it will strengthen in response.
That’s the main idea behind exercise generally — and it’s a good one. Cardiovascular exercise has been associated with a variety of positive health outcomes, including decreased blood pressure, reduced knee pain, improved brain function, reduced obesity, and even reduced anxiety and depression.
So, what does cardiovascular mean for you? It means a chance at not only a longer life, but also a higher quality life. It means living longer while still staying active, involved, and a part of life.
Is Cardiovascular Exercise the Only Way to Increase My Heart Rate?
No! Anaerobic exercise, especially with HIIT, can absolutely still increase your heart rate, thereby strengthening your heart, but classic weight lifting often doesn’t get your heart rate high enough (because of the breaks in between sets).
HIIT, on the other hand, can not only vastly increase your heart rate, but it can do so regardless of the type of HIIT you do — it all involves exercising strenuously for a short period of time, followed by a period of rest.
To really reach an optimum level of physical fitness, you need a bit of both types of exercise. The U.S. government recommends at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise, combined with strength training at least twice a week.
While it may sound like a lot, it’s a goal to shoot for, and the benefit is a happier, healthier, more active life.
So, what does cardiovascular mean for you? It means a longer life, and maybe even a better life. But cardiovascular exercise even has additional health benefits that go beyond what I’ve described above, health benefits that those suffering from low testosterone should take notice of.
HIIT, Heavy Lifting, and Low Testosterone
In addition to helping your heart, HIIT may also temporarily increase your testosterone levels. Heavy weight lifting may do the same. This is a pretty significant benefit, especially if your testosterone is simply on the edge of normal.