Whether it’s incorporated into a weight-lifting session as short bursts between exercises or as a stand-alone workout on the treadmill, elliptical or stair climber, cardiovascular exercise is defined as any physical activity that raises your heart rate and improves the function of your heart, lungs and circulatory system.
To be an effective cardio session, your chosen activity needs to keep your heart rate elevated for a specific amount of time, which is typically 20 to 60 minutes. Running, rowing, cycling and boot-camp style classes are all excellent examples of cardio workouts that target the large muscles of your body while elevating your heart rate.
When it comes to how you do cardio, you have a few options: High-intensity interval training (HIIT) involves short periods of high-intensity exercise alternating with periods of lower-intensity exercise, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. On the other end of the cardio spectrum, low-intensity steady-state (LISS) cardio focuses on performing aerobic activity at a low-to-moderate intensity (50 to 65 percent of your max heart rate) for an extended period of time.