Squatting is a staple of any home gym and a superb exercise that targets the lower body, core and back. It can help you build strength and get those toned legs we all want.
But are they a good form of cardio?
This guide looks at how squats compare up in the cardiovascular fitness scale, as well as whether they’re good at burning off calories.
Short Answer: Squats= Cardio – yes or no?
For anyone in a hurry:
No. Squats technically be classed as a form of cardio.
Why? They aren’t done long enough, or with enough prolonged intensity to be considered a stand-alone form of aerobic exercise.
While they’re one of the best, and most important, exercises you can do to strengthen your whole body they aren’t a good cardiovascular exercise.
However, lines become blurred when they’re used as part of a HIIT program or as part of a circuit.
What Exactly is Cardio Exercise?
Before we pass judgement on whether or not squats count as a form of cardio or not, we’d better nail down exactly what ‘cardio’ is.
Cardio or aerobic exercise can be:
- A low or high level of intensity
- Something that raises your heart rate and your breathing rate
- Any exercise that uses aerobic metabolism (oxygen is involved in cellular reactions)
Cardio routines help you burn calories, reduce the risk of getting a chronic disease, and stay fit and healthy.
A good, sweaty cardio workout makes your heart pump blood faster and more efficiently, which gives you a better blood circulation. This keeps you feeling productive and full of energy.
So does the squat fit into this category?
Squats are hard, so they must be cardio, right?
No. Normally, you cannot consider squats as a type of cardio exercise.
Squats are an effective way to strengthen the large groups of muscles in your legs. There’s no better way to hit your glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings.
This exercise is a type of resistance exercise and cannot be done for a long time, compared to other cardio exercises.
Why aren’t squats considered cardio?
One thing that helps when trying to get a picture of whether or not squats are a good form of aerobic exercise is to compare it to some of the best-known forms of cardiovascular exercise:
- Speed walking
- Stair climbing
There’s a lot of other ones, but these are some of the most popular. If you compare someone running to someone squatting, the way they are breathing and using their bodies are very different.
How many calories do you burn doing squats?
So just how many kcals are we burning off doing squats? Like any exercise, it varies from person to person and has a number of things to look at:
- Your body weight
- The length of time you do the squats (or the number)
- How much you go for it (the level of intensity)
According to Healthline, If you were to do squats with a low intensity, for around 25 minutes, you could expect to burn around 100 calories. At high intensity, you could burn off around 450 calories in an hour.
So squats are technically a cardio exercise?
If you’ve ever done squats, you’ll know one thing: it’s not easy to do them over a prolonged period of time. Unless you’re Paddy Doyle (the world-record holder for the highest number of squats in one hour – 4708, no less) you might struggle to do squats for 25 minutes straight.
While you’d likely burn off 100 calories, or even more, it’s debatable whether many of us would a) be able to do that many, or b) be able to walk for the foreseeable future.
Besides, there are far more effective, safe and easy ways to burn off calories than squats.
Squats and HIIT routines – when they can count as cardio
HIIT is one of the best forms of cardio exercise and often integrates squats in there somewhere, be they dumbbell, body weight or with a barbell. When squats are used in this form of circuit exercise, the weight is normally reduced and higher reps are the name of the game.
In this sense, you can make a case that squats are a form of cardio.
Make your own cardioesque squat routine:
- Trying to do as many squats (keep count) as possible in a minute.
- Dividing the total count by 4. This is the number of squats you need to do per set.
- Try to do 10 to 20 sets of squats.
5 reasons you should be doing squats
Even if squats are not exactly cardio exercise, there’s still a boat load of reasons to work them into your everyday routine. Here’s some of the biggies in the world of home fitness:
1. Strengthen Your Muscles & increase balance
One of the major benefits of doing squats is strengthening your muscles. Strong muscles can help you in your daily life by allowing flexible movements, bending, and even increasing your balance.
Additionally, squatting can reduce your back pain and other orthopaedic problems. It can also give you an ideal posture and reduce slouching.
2. Burn at least some calories
Squatting may not be considered as cardio but still, it can help in reducing those calories. When you squat, you increase the movement. This helps in increasing metabolism. Eventually, the body then releases calories to repair your muscles again.
3. Protect You From Injuries
If you are someone who faces a lot of orthopaedic and other problems, squatting can help you in the near future.
As mentioned earlier, squatting strengthens your muscles and helps you in other strenuous physical activities. Additionally, it may also help in strengthening your ligaments, bones, and tendons, to protect your body from any kind of damage.
4. Increase Your Power
Squatting exercises are known to increase the power of a person. By power, we do not just mean immunity but also, your strength.
It can drastically improve your athletic side. If you get fatigued too easily, squatting regularly can give you enough strength to endure many physical activities for a long time.
5. Get You In Shape
Calorie-burning cannot necessarily give your body a good shape. However, squatting regularly can help you achieve all your body goals. It helps in getting your thighs in shape by making them firm and removing that extra fat.
6. Motivate You and Bring Positivity
If you believe squatting is only good for your physical health, you may not know that it can help your mental health too.
Essentially, squats weren’t known for their effects on mental health. However, in recent developments, researchers have found that squats can also increase your brainpower and reduce mental-dullness.
Squat exercises are also fun to do and can motivate you to do better.
Some Examples of Cardio Exercises
If you are specifically looking for cardio exercises, there are a lot of examples. The most common ones are swimming, cycling, running, skiing, rowing, brisk walking, and more
You can also do cardio exercises in the comfort of your home or gym through treadmill machines, cross trainers, and stationary bicycles.
Keep in mind that lifting weights and using dumbbells is not considered as cardio exercises. They are exercises that can help you improve your overall fitness, improve strength, and gain weight. However, they cannot help you build cardiovascular stamina.
Final Word on Squats as Cardio
While squats are never easy to do at the best of times, they can’t be classed as a true form of cardio exercise. While they can be used within a HIIT workout as part of an aerobic routine, if we’re being pedantic, they definitely can’t be classes as a cardio exercise on their own.
Like everything, squats do an incredible job and have their place in your home gym training routine. If you’re not already doing squats, work them into your routine starting now and you’ll see a huge increase in stability, strength, tone. Their benefits stretch to way more than just your legs too.