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It is common knowledge that exercise is essential to stay healthy, but is it possible to be healthy from weight training alone, or is cardio necessary too?

First of all, let’s clear up the basic question: what is cardio? Cardio is the common term used to refer to aerobic exercise, which is where oxygen is used to provide energy for the activity.[1]

Anaerobic exercise, including resistance training or high-intensity interval training (HIIT), refers to high-intensity activities which require energy from anaerobic sources. Essentially this means cells utilise energy from phosphagen and lactic acid for short periods, instead of using oxygen.

The British National Health Service (NHS) suggest that you should do both cardio exercise and resistance training as part of a healthy lifestyle.[2] They recommend one of the following 3 options:

  • 2 ½ hours of moderate intensity cardio every week + resistance training on 2 or more days

  • 75 minutes of high-intensity cardio every week + resistance training on 2 or more days

  • Equivalent mix of moderate and high intensity cardio + resistance training on 2 or more days

Moderate intensity cardio could be anything that will raise your heart rate and make you breathe faster, such as cycling, swimming or walking uphill.

Vigorous intensity intensity cardio will raise your heart rate more significantly and make you breathe hard and fast, such as running, sports such as football, rugby or hockey, or martial arts.

However, these are general guidelines issues for all adults aged 19-64. What about those of us who put in 100%, training hard in the gym three to five days a week? Do we need to do cardio?

This is really up to you to judge. It is likely that some of your workouts, such as sets of 10-30 reps with short rest periods, will be raising your heart rate for sustained periods of time may have similar effects as cardio in terms of health benefits. However, short sets with heavy weight may not have the same effect, and therefore cardio should be added to your workout plan to stay healthy.

The amount of cardio you do should also be based on your goals. Cardio is an essential tool if you want to cut body fat and build a leaner physique. However, if you want to gain muscle mass, cardio should be limited.

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