Cardiovascular Exercise

“Being physically active is one of the most important actions that people of all ages can take to improve their health.” - Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Cardiovascular or aerobic activity is anything that gets your heart beating faster than normal. You can tell when you are engaging in this activity, as you will breathe harder than normal. Over time, regular aerobic activity makes the cardiorespiratory system stronger and more fit. What counts as cardiovascular activity? Moderate-Intensity:

  • Walking briskly (tips on getting started here)
  • Recreational swimming
  • Bicycling on level terrain
  • Doubles tennis
  • Quickly moving Vinyasa or Power yoga
  • Dancing
  • Hiking on level terrain
  • General yard work and home repair work
  • Exercise classes like water aerobics
  • Stair stepping - Take the stairs at work!


  • Jogging
  • Running
  • Bicycling fast or uphill
  • Jumping activities
  • Swimming laps
  • Heavy yard work (digging, shoveling)
  • Playing basketball
  • Hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack
  • Exercise classes like vigorous step aerobics or kickboxing
  • Rowing
  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT), such as CrossFit

Cardio exercise that involves impact with the ground also helps promote bone growth and strength. Bone-strengthening activities include jumping jacks, running, brisk walking, and weight-lifting exercises. The U.S. Department of Health recommends getting at least 150 minutes per week, or 30 minutes per day, of at least moderate-intensity aerobic activity. It’s even better to get 300 minutes (5 hours) or more. But any amount of this activity is better than none; getting healthy is as easy as getting started with just 5-10 more minutes per day if you aren’t currently exceeding the recommended 30 minutes per day. It’s also best to get some vigorous-intensity aerobic activity every week. You can actually substitute shorter bouts of vigorous activity for longer bouts of moderate activity. The U.S. Department of Health recommends 75 minutes per week if the activity is vigorous, 150 minutes per week if the activity is moderate. Is your activity moderate or vigorous? Use the “talk test” to find out! When you’re being active, just try talking:

  •  If you’re breathing hard but can still have a conversation easily, it’s moderate intensity activity
  • If you can only say a few words before you have to take a breath, it’s vigorous intensity activity

The Benefits of Cardio Activity! Moderate-to-vigorous physical can quickly reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, reduce blood pressure, improve sleep quality, improve cognitive function and increase insulin sensitivity. Over time it increases cardiorespiratory fitness and slows or delays the progression of chronic diseases such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, type 2 diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases. The mechanisms of how aerobic exercise improves cardiovascular health have been studied extensively. Consistent aerobic exercise training improves the capacity of your heart to pump oxygen-rich blood by increasing the strength of your heart muscle. Your lungs adapt by increasing their capacity to extract oxygen from inhaled air and saturate your red blood cells. Your skeletal muscle adapts by increasing the capacity of its mitochondria (the energy “powerhouses” inside of your cells) to use oxygen and produce energy. Aerobic exercises will improve the maximal volume of oxygen you can consume (VO2 max). Improving VO2 max is one of the single best predictors of health and longevity. Sit for a living at a desk job? High volumes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity will radically lower your risk of disease and early death. Cardio Activity Resources Need help with your cardio routine? Make a weekly or monthly exercise plan to help you stay on track! We also recommend the following devices, apps and articles to help you get started.

Learn more with our Exercise FAQ.