Believe it or not, some fitness professionals still insist that men don't need to do cardio. Maybe they know something that the American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control don't. So, throwing the skepticism aside, and keeping your overall health in the picture, we're going to stick with the recommendations of these two health care giants, among others.

Consider this, Americans, men and women increasingly lead sedentary lifestyles. We sit down on the job and lounge in front 200-plus channels at home. Many of us even opt for computer and video games instead of playing a sport for recreation.

Cardio or aerobic exercises aren't just for burning calories and losing weight so you can look ripped. These exercises pack quite a punch when it comes to overall health and fitness.

However, critics suggest that men can get just as many cardio benefits from a high-intensity strength-training workout as they can from jogging, biking, or a bout on the elliptical machine. However, it's not a question of either or when it comes to cardio and strength training. The AHA, CDC, and myriad other health organizations recommend doing both.

Furthermore, suggesting that strength-training will give enough cardio benefits assumes that a person is already doing this activity. Based on national health statistics, that's a gross assumption, considering that most adults aren't getting the daily exercise they need--cardio or otherwise.

The Benefits of Cardio

Here's a brief list of what you get from increased cardio activity:

• Faster calorie burning. If weight loss is your goal, cardio boosts oxygen flow to the muscles, helping them to burn more calories as energy.

• A healthy heart. Heart disease is the number one killer of American men. Even though women get more heart-health benefits from aerobic exercise than men do, every bit helps.

• Better cardiovascular health. Aerobic exercises help to keep arteries clean and free of plaque build-up, reducing your risk of heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular problems.

• Increased stamina. Cardio exercise improves blood flow to your heart and your oxygen intake, which will even improve your strength-training regimen and overall stamina.

• Lower blood pressure. For many people, blood pressure increases with age, which can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Cardio activity helps to stabilize blood pressure.

• Lower risk of serious diseases - cardio and aerobic exercises also help to prevent other health problems such as diabetes, some forms of cancer (including colon cancer), and obesity. The Weight-control Information Network, a division of the National Institutes of Health, reports that over 68 million American men are overweight or obese.

• Better sexual health - regular cardio exercise improves blood flow to the genitals and lowers your risk of erectile dysfunction.

• Improved sleep. Studies show that aerobic exercise can help middle-age and older adults to sleep better.

How Much Cardio Do You Need?

In their Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, the CDC points out that as little as one hour a week of moderate-intensity cardio or aerobic exercise can be beneficial. But, the disease-protecting benefits begin when you put in 2 ½ hours weekly. If you push yourself beyond this limit, the health benefits increase even more.

If running on a treadmill isn't for you, other good cardio activities for men include brisk walking, biking, swimming, jogging, tennis, basketball, and one of the best - jumping rope. According to the CDC, the intensity, frequency and duration of your cardio workout is more important than any one of these components on its own.

One key thing to remember is that pacing increases the benefits you get from cardio exercises, states the AHA. You should be working towards your target heart rate goal, which is about 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate (MHR).

To determine your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. You can use a heart rate monitor, or check your pulse to see if you're on target.

Also, for men over age 35, those who are inactive or who haven't had a recent medical check-up, consulting with a doctor before starting cardio exercises (or any other fitness regimen) is highly recommended.


Centers for Disease Control, American Heart Association, Weight-control Information Network