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As teens and even as adults, I know a lot of us may have let out a big sigh when someone even mentioned the word, "cardio". But what is it? Does it even matter? How can it affect your child's overall health; or your health?

Why Cardio? Why?

Cardio stands for cardiovascular; this is just a fancy way of saying the heart and blood vessels. Cardio workouts increase cardiorespiratory endurance which refers to the ability of the heart and lungs to use oxygen over an extended period of time. Activities that increase your heart rate can be beneficial to heart and lung health.

Most research says children need 60 minutes of strenuous physical activity a day and for adults, the experts recommend a minimum of 150 minutes per week. The definition of strenuous activity implies that you are sweating and your heart rate is increased.

An average "target" heart rate (that causes you to sweat), is between 100-170 beats per minute (bpm). This target gradually decreases as you get older. Maximum output for the heart is about 220 minus your age. A period of time in that "target zone" increases your body temperature and causes you to sweat. When talking about exercise, this is what you want to shoot for every time.

Examples of Cardio Exercises

Just because we have a tendency to dread cardio doesn't mean it can't be fun. Find a new activity that you and your kids enjoy doing together, or take a cardio activity that you've dreaded in the past and turn it into a game through a challenge to yourself. Here are a few example cardio activities.

  • Bike riding – I set a goal for myself; I go halfway and then turn around and come back.
  • Run/Jog/Walk – Same as above :)
  • Jump Rope – Count down from a certain number, so it's easier to finish. Counting up is more taxing!
  • Dancing – Just dance!

Uptown Funk

One of my personal favorites, believe it or not, is dancing. You can make pretty much any movement into dance by following a beat.

Last time, we did a dance to Pharrell's "Happy". This time we're dancing to the Kidz Bop version of Uptown Funk. This dance is a little more elaborate and fun, but we've broken it down so you can learn each step. We weren't worrying about being perfect - we just wanted to dance! Try this with your kids. Just be silly, move and get that heart rate up!

If you or your child encounters difficulty with the dance, please don't hesitate to contact me in the comments, and I will provide some alternative ways to get you and your child active together!

Stay Active Everybody!

Andrew Mantzaris

Andrew is a certified physical education instructor in Omaha, Nebraska. His desire is to help every child become a "lifelong mover" by teaching the fundamentals about body movement while making it fun in the process. In his class, you could be playing numerous variations of tag activities, learning sports related skills, doing body weight exercises or testing out some new dance moves. He is committed to making life long moving accessible to all ages and skill levels by coaching h ...

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