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Cardiorespiratory exercise is your heart’s best friend! The word cardio roughly translates to heart and the word respiratory is in reference to our lungs. Cardiorespiratory fitness is the ability of the heart and lungs to work in tandem to deliver oxygen to the working muscles and the rest of the body. The fitter a person’s cardiorespiratory system is, the easier it is for the heart and lungs to do their job. This means less stress on vital organs over the course of a lifetime. Ultimately, this translates to living a longer AND better life. Not only do you reduce risk factors of metabolic disease, heart disease and neurodegenerative disease, but you also increase your overall level of stamina and vitality in your everyday life.


Typically when I ask new guests at Hilton Head Health what they think of when they think of cardiorespiratory fitness, I usually get responses like;

1) Running

2) Biking

3) Swimming

4) Heart rate

5) Sweating

6) Breathing

7) Torture

8) It’s the thing I hate most


The first three are good examples of activities with Cardiorespiratory benefits. Numbers 4, 5 and 6 are by-products of cardio. And numbers 7 and 8 are a result of unfortunate cardio experiences. I say this because when cardio is approached correctly, it should actually be enjoyable MOST of the time.


At this point some of you must be thinking, “This guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about, I will NEVER enjoy cardio.” To those of you who think that, I ask you to humor me. One of the best ways to make cardio your best friend is to sneak it into something you enjoy. For instance, if you enjoy music, dancing is a great way to sneak it in. Or perhaps you are an outdoors person. Hiking in new areas is a great way to sneak it in. Or maybe you simply find yourself a walking buddy to distract yourself from the movement and also get in your social activity.


In general, there are three different intensities of cardio; Low, Moderate and High. Some people measure these in Heart Rate Zones. Orange Theory has made a business around this idea and has actually divided it up into 5 zones. However, for the purposes of this talk, we will simplify even further with just three.


Low intensity is an activity that could be done while simultaneously having a long conversation with somebody. For instance, a long walk on the beach would be a low-intensity cardio activity. A leisurely bike ride would be another example. Virtually anything the gets your body moving would fit into this category.


Moderate intensity is an activity that could be done while speaking short sentences. An example of this would be hiking up an incline where breathing rate increases, however talking is still achievable


High intensity is an activity where talking is minimal and breathing is prioritized. An example of this could be briskly walking up a steep incline.


Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes/day of moving at a low intensity combined with a daily dose of 20 minutes of moderate to high intensity and you will be well on your way to achieving the best benefits of cardio fitness.


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