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Is There a Difference Between Cardio and Aerobic Exercise?

by
author image Ryn Gargulinski
Ryn Gargulinski is a writer, artist and performer whose journalism career began in 1991. Credits include two illustrated books, "Bony Yoga" and "Rats Incredible." She holds a Master of Arts in English literature and folklore and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in creative writing with a French minor from Brooklyn College.
Is There a Difference Between Cardio and Aerobic Exercise?
Running is both a cardio and aerobic exercise. Photo Credit YouraPechkin/iStock/Getty Images

Stop fretting if you think you cannot possibly fit both cardio and aerobic exercise into your busy schedule. You can do both at the same time. In fact, you are already doing both at the same time. The terms are interchangeable and the exercises provide the same benefits, although the words stem from different origins.

Easy Answer

Is There a Difference Between Cardio and Aerobic Exercise?
Aerobic exercise and cardio exercise are the same thing. Photo Credit Antonio_Diaz/iStock/Getty Images

Aerobic exercise and cardio exercise are the same thing. Both types of exercise achieve the same results: improved fitness by increasing both your oxygen intake and heart rate. You cannot do one without the other, as there is no way you can increase your respiratory rate without also making your heart pump harder and vice versa. Perhaps a less confusing blanket term for both is endurance exercise, as both aerobic and cardio exercises increase your endurance level.

Technical Answer

Is There a Difference Between Cardio and Aerobic Exercise?
You cannot have one type of exercise without the other. Photo Credit Estudi M6/iStock/Getty Images

If you want to get technical about the terms, they do have different etymologies and definitions, even though the two types of exercise achieve the same results. Aerobic refers to oxygen intake, with the term “aerobic” stemming from the Greek “with oxygen.” Cardio refers to your heart, stemming from the Latin “cor” and Greek “kardia.” Thus aerobic exercise is defined as exercise that promotes a greater oxygen intake and cardio exercise is exercise that promotes a greater heart rate. You cannot have one without the other.

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What It Is

Is There a Difference Between Cardio and Aerobic Exercise?
Swimming provides a good aerobic and cardiovascular workout. Photo Credit myrainjom01/iStock/Getty Images

If you’re still not convinced cardio and aerobic exercises are one in the same, check out some examples. Swimming, jogging, running, walking, dancing, bicycling, playing tennis and other activities that keep you moving for a sustained period provide an aerobic and cardio workout. The intensity and duration of each determines how much of a workout you’ll receive.

What It Is Not

Is There a Difference Between Cardio and Aerobic Exercise?
Yoga isn't considered aerobic or cardiovascular exercise. Photo Credit Denis Raev/iStock/Getty Images

On the flip side of the mat, so to speak, you have workouts that are not considered aerobic or cardio exercises. Although some training will give you a quick burst of oxygen or briefly raise your heart rate, the activities are not sustained enough to qualify. These include weight lifting and other strength training, yoga and other flexibility training, speed training and resilience training. Such activities improve your overall fitness in ways aerobic and cardio exercises do not, but they do nothing to increase your endurance.

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