- Why You Should Add Cardio to Your Workout Routine
- 13 Benefits of Aerobic Exercise
- 2. Lowers blood pressure
- 3. Helps regulate blood sugar
- 4. Reduces asthma symptoms
- 5. Reduces chronic pain
- 6. Aids sleep
- 7. Regulates weight
- 8. Strengthens immune system
- 9. Improves brain power
- 10. Boosts mood
- 11. Reduces risk of falls
- 12. Safe for most people, including kids
- 13. Affordable and accessible
- The Main Health Benefits of Cardio Exercise
- Great for Weight Loss
- Strengthens Your Heart
- Reduces the Risk of Several Diseases
- Improves Lung Capacity
- Naturally Boosts Energy
- Great for Mental Health
- Better Sleep
- Helps the Immune System
- Cardio 101: Benefits and tips
- 10 Best Cardio Activities
- Top Choices for Beginners:
- Top Choices for People on a Budget:
- Top Choices for High Calorie Burning:
- Start Working Out Today
Why You Should Add Cardio to Your Workout Routine
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The word 'cardio' is probably one of the first words you hear when you first start an exercise program. You know that cardio is an essential component of any workout, whether you want to lose weight, get fit, or just be healthier.
Health authorities recommend 150 minutes of cardio exercise per week to reduce health risks.
If you want to lose a substantial amount of weight (more than 5 percent of body weight) and/or keep it off, you may have to do more than 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week and that doesn't even include strength training. Getting a deeper understanding of cardio exercise may be what you need to get motivated to do it a little more often.
Cardio exercise simply means that you're doing a rhythmic activity that raises your heart rate into your target heart rate zone, the zone where you'll burn the most fat and calories.
Even bouts (or episodes) as short as 10 minutes count towards your weekly cardio exercise minutes.
According to the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee, “episodes of any length contribute to the health benefits associated with the accumulated volume of physical activity.”
When you realize just how much cardio exercise can do for you, you may want to do some right now. There are very few activities you can do for a short period of time that have this many benefits. Some of the known benefits are:
- It helps you burn fat and calories for weight loss.
- It makes your heart strong so that it doesn't have to work as hard to pump blood.
- It increases your lung capacity.
- It helps reduce your risk of heart attack, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and some forms of cancer.
- It makes you feel good, and can even provide temporary relief from depression and anxiety.
- It helps you sleep better.
- It helps reduce stress.
- It improves your sex life.
- It gives you more confidence in how you look and feel.
- Weight-bearing cardio exercise helps increase your bone density.
- It allows you to set a good example for your family.
And the great thing about cardio is that you don't have to work out for an hour at a high-intensity to get the benefits. Even a little goes a long way. A 15-minute walk outside can boost your mood and help lower blood pressure.
Don't feel you have to have a lot of time and energy for cardio. Doing a little each day is better than doing nothing at all. With all the benefits laid out for you, it's time for the next step which covers exactly how to choose your cardio exercise.
Your first step in setting up a program is to figure out what kind of activities you'd to do.
The trick is to think about what's accessible to you, what fits your personality and what you'd feel comfortable fitting into your life. If you to go outdoors, running, cycling, or walking are all good choices.
Just about any activity will work, as long as it involves a movement that gets your heart rate into your heart rate zone. Walking is always an excellent choice. It's something most of us can do on a regular basis and you don't need fancy equipment.
If you prefer going to the gym, you have access to many more options in the form of machines stationary bikes, elliptical trainers, treadmills, rowing machines, climbers, the pool, and more.
For the home exerciser, you can, of course, buy your own treadmill or elliptical trainer, but there are other great options :
- Exercise videos
- Online exercises and workouts
- Fitness apps
- A variety of home cardio exercises you can do jumping rope, jumping jacks, jogging in place, burpees, and more.
You have so many choices but, the trouble is, you may not even know what you yet. You may have to try several different activities before you find one that works for you. This is the experiment we all have to take part in and it can be hit or miss so don't be afraid to try something and, if it doesn't work, move on to something else.
- There is no 'best' cardio exercise. Just because your friend says running is the best doesn't mean you have to do it, especially if running makes you feel your entire body is falling apart. Anything that gets your heart rate up fits the bill, even vigorous chores raking leaves or washing the car.
- Do something you enjoy or at least something you can tolerate. If you hate gym workouts, don't force yourself onto a treadmill. Walk, jog, or bike outdoors to enjoy the scenery. If you socializing, consider sports, group fitness, working out with a friend or a walking club.
- Choose something you can see yourself doing at least three days a week. To meet the exercise recommendations, you need to do cardio three days per week. Make it easier to be motivated by choosing an activity that will be convenient for you to do that often, at least until you've formed the habit.
- Be flexible and don't be afraid to branch out once you get comfortable with exercise. The nice thing about cardio exercise is that you can choose any activity that raises your heart rate. You don't have to do the same workout every session, nor every week. Changing up your cardio is easy, so do it often and you'll discover more activities you enjoy.
- Keep it simple. If you're confused about what to do, start with the basics—you need at least 20 minutes for the body to get going, so start there. Get out your calendar, find 20 minutes of time on three different days and do something—walking, running, going to the gym, vigorous yard work—whatever you want. Make it a habit first and work on your time and intensity later.
After you choose what to do, the most important element of your workout will now be how long you do it. You should work on duration before you work on anything else doing high-intensity workouts; it takes time to build up the endurance for continuous exercise.
The guidelines suggest anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes of cardio to be healthy, lose weight, and get fit, depending on the types of workouts you do. That's fine, but you don't want to start with an hour of exercise. That's just too much for anyone if you haven't exercised for a while (or ever).
To start, choose an accessible exercise walking or a treadmill, and start with about 10-20 minutes of brisk walking at a moderate-intensity. That means you're just your comfort zone, at around a Level 5 or 6 on a perceived exertion scale of zero to 10, where sitting is zero and the highest level of effort possible is 10.
Beginner workout options:
- You don't have to do it all at once. You can absolutely split your workouts into smaller workouts throughout the day. Try three 10-minute walks as a good start.
- Add small bursts of cardio throughout the day by climbing stairs or speed walking.
- Do all those things you know you should be doing: Take the stairs, walk more, stop driving around looking for that front row parking space, etc.
- Make the time. People who work out don't have more time than people who don't. They've just practiced making exercise a priority. Scheduling your workouts and treating them any other appointment you wouldn't miss may help you stick to your program.
- Pay someone to make you exercise. Finding a good personal trainer can make a difference when it comes to motivation and reaching your goals.
- Do something—anything. If you think five minutes isn't enough time to workout, you couldn't be more wrong. Whether it's five minutes, 10 minutes or 60 minutes, every single minute counts.
- Consider your intensity. The harder you work, the shorter your workouts should be. So, if you're doing Tabata training or some other kind of high-intensity interval training, your workout may only be 10-20 minutes long. If you're doing a slower, steady state workout, you can workout longer, maybe 30-60 minutes.
Keep in mind that doing too much cardio is a no-no as well and can actually backfire. There is a point of diminishing returns, so keep it reasonable (three to six days a week, depending on your fitness level), vary your intensity and don't forget to take rest days when needed.
The short, non-scientific answer to how often to do cardio workouts is to do more than you probably think you should and more than you really want to or have the time for.
The longer answer is that it depends on your fitness level, schedule, and goals. If you want to be healthy and aren't worried about losing weight, getting in 20-30 minutes of moderate activity every day can do you some good. But, for weight loss, it's a whole other story.
And it's not just about frequency. It's about intensity as well. If you only do moderate workouts, you can probably workout every day.
But, if you do high-intensity interval training, you may need more rest days in between workout days.
The bottom line is that it's better to have a mixture of the two so that you're working different energy systems and giving your body something different to do so you don't burn out.
The frequency of your workouts will depend on your fitness level and your schedule. The general guidelines are:
- For health, try moderately-intense cardio 30 minutes a day, five days a week, or vigorously-intense cardio 20 minutes a day, three days a week. You can also do a mixture.
- To maintain a healthy body weight, you need about 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week.
- For weight loss and/or to avoid regaining weight, you may need to do more than 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week to meet your goals.
What happens if you can't follow the guidelines? If you're still working on building the endurance and conditioning, it may take a few weeks to work your way up to more frequent exercise.
If it's a busy schedule that stands in your way or other obstacles, do your best to work out as many days as you can try shorter, more intense circuit training workouts to make the most the time you do have.
10-minute time-saver workout ideas:
Keep in mind that if you can't follow the guidelines because of your busy schedule, you may have trouble reaching your weight loss goals.
If you can't do the work required to reach your goals, you may have to change your lifestyle or, if that isn't working, change your goal to fit where you are in your exercise or weight loss experience.
Once you've gotten used to exercise (and are up to 30 minutes of continuous movement) you can start working on your intensity. How hard you work is a crucial factor in your workout because:
- How hard you work is directly related to how many calories you burn.
- Raising intensity is the best way to burn more calories when you're short on time.
- It's an easy part of your workout to change—all you do is work harder.
- It's easy to monitor with a heart rate monitor or perceived exertion scale.
Your best exercise intensity level depends on several factors including your fitness level and your goals. There are three different levels of intensity you can focus on during your workouts, and you can even incorporate all of these levels into the same workout:
- High-Intensity Cardio: This falls between 70 percent and 85 percent of your maximum heart rate (MHR) if you're using heart rate zones, or a 7 to 8 on the perceived exertion scale. What this translates to is exercise at a level that feels challenging and leaves you too breathless to talk much. If you're a beginner, you may want to work up to this level or try beginner interval training so that you work harder for shorter periods of time. Advanced exercisers can try high-intensity interval training for more strenuous workouts.
- Moderate-Intensity Cardio: This level falls between 50 percent and 70 percent of your MHR (a level 5 to 6 on the perceived exertion scale). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services often recommends this level of intensity in its Physical Activity Guidelines. This is the level you typically want to shoot for during your workouts.
- Low-Intensity Cardio: This type of exercise is considered to be below 50 percent of your MHR, or about a level 3 to 4 on the perceived exertion scale. This is a good level to work at during your warm-ups or when you're squeezing in other activities, walking, throughout the day.
Keep in mind that your target heart rate calculation isn't 100 percent accurate so you might want to use a combination of perceived exertion and your heart rate to find a range that works for you.
Whatever you do, remember to keep it simple. Just start somewhere and make it a goal to do something every day, even if it's just a 5-minute walk. Try doing it at the same time every day and schedule it on your calendar. The more you practice the easier it gets.
13 Benefits of Aerobic Exercise
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Aerobic exercise is any activity that gets your blood pumping and large muscle groups working. It’s also known as cardiovascular activity. Examples of aerobic exercise include:
- brisk walking
- heavy cleaning or gardening
- playing soccer
Experts recommend getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week. Brisk walking or swimming are examples of moderate activity. Running or cycling are examples of vigorous activity.
But why is aerobic exercise recommended? Read on to learn about the benefits and to get tips for ways to incorporate aerobic exercise into your routine.
Aerobic exercise is recommended by the American Heart Association and by most doctors to people with, or at risk for, heart disease. That’s because exercise strengthens your heart and helps it more efficiently pump blood throughout the body.
Cardiovascular exercise can also help lower blood pressure, and keep your arteries clear by raising “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and lowering “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels in the blood.
If you’re specifically looking to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, aim for 40 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise between 3 and 4 times each week.
2. Lowers blood pressure
Cardiovascular exercise may help you manage symptoms of high blood pressure. That’s because exercise can help lower blood pressure. Here are other ways to lower blood pressure without medicine.
3. Helps regulate blood sugar
Regular physical activity helps regulate insulin levels and lower blood sugar, all while keeping body weight in check. In a study on people with type 2 diabetes, researchers found that any form of movement, either aerobic or anaerobic, may have these effects.
4. Reduces asthma symptoms
Aerobic exercise can help people with asthma lessen both the frequency and severity of asthma attacks. You should still talk to your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine if you have asthma, however. They may recommend specific activities or precautions to help keep you safe while working out.
5. Reduces chronic pain
If you have chronic back pain, cardiovascular exercise — specifically low-impact activities, swimming or aqua aerobics — may help you get back muscle function and endurance. Exercise can also help you lose weight, which may further reduce chronic back pain.
6. Aids sleep
If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, try cardiovascular exercise during your waking hours.
A study on individuals with chronic sleep issues revealed that a regular exercise program combined with sleep hygiene education is an effective treatment for insomnia.
Participants engaged in aerobic activity for 16 weeks and then completed questionnaires about their sleep and general mood. The activity group reported better sleep quality and duration, as well as improvements in their daytime wakefulness and vitality.
Exercising too close to bedtime may make it more difficult to sleep, however. Try to finish your workout at least two hours before bedtime.
7. Regulates weight
You may have heard that diet and exercise are the building blocks to weight loss. But aerobic exercise alone may hold the power to help you lose weight and keep it off.
In one study, researchers asked overweight participants to keep their diets the same, but to engage in exercise sessions that would burn either 400 to 600 calories, 5 times a week, for 10 months.
The results showed significant weight loss, between 4.3 and 5.7 percent of their starting weights, for both men and women. Most participants walked or jogged on treadmills for the majority of their exercise sessions. If you don’t have access to a treadmill, try taking a few brisk walks or jogs a day, such as during your lunch break or before dinner.
Depending on your weight and speed, you may need to walk or jog up to 4 miles to burn 400 to 600 calories. Cutting calories in addition to aerobic exercise can reduce the amount of exercise needed to lose the same amount of weight.
8. Strengthens immune system
Researchers at Pennsylvania State University examined active and sedentary women and the impact of exercise on their immune systems.
- one group exercised on a treadmill for 30 minutes
- another group did a burst of intense activity over 30 seconds
- the last group did not exercise
All women had their blood taken before, after, and at different intervals in the days and weeks after these exercise sessions.
The results showed that regular and moderate aerobic exercise increases certain antibodies in the blood called immunoglobulins. That ultimately strengthens the immune system. The sedentary group of women saw no improvement in immune system function and their cortisol levels were much higher than those in the active groups.
9. Improves brain power
Did you know that the brain starts losing tissue after you reach age 30? Scientists have uncovered that aerobic exercise may slow this loss and improve cognitive performance.
To test this theory, 55 older adults submitted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans for evaluation. The participants were then examined to assess their health, including aerobic fitness. The adults who were most fit showed fewer reductions in the frontal, parietal, and temporal areas of the brain. Overall, their brain tissue was more robust.
What does this mean for you? Aerobic exercise does the body and brain good.
10. Boosts mood
Moving your body may also improve your mood. In one study on individuals with depression, participants walked on a treadmill doing intervals for 30 minutes a session. After 10 days, they were asked to report any changes in their mood.
All participants reported a significant reduction in their symptoms of depression. These results suggest that engaging in exercise, even for a short period of time, may have a big impact on mood.
You don’t need to wait almost two weeks to see improvement. The study results revealed that even a single exercise session may be enough to give you a boost.
11. Reduces risk of falls
One in three people over the age of 65 fall each year. Falls can lead to broken bones, and potentially create lifelong injuries or disabilities. Exercise may help reduce your risk for falls. And if you’re worried you’re too old to start exercising, don’t be. You have much to gain.
Results from a study on women ages 72 to 87 revealed that aerobic dance, for example, can reduce the risk of falling by promoting better balance and agility. The women worked out for an hour, 3 times a week, for a total of 12 weeks. The dance sessions included plenty of squatting motions, leg balance, and other basic gross motor tasks.
At the end of the study, the women in the control group performed significantly better on tasks standing on one leg with their eyes closed. They also had better grip strength and reach, all important physical strengths that can protect the body from falls.
Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting a new workout routine, and start slow. Group classes can be a great way to safely exercise. The instructor can tell you if you’re doing moves correctly and they can also give you modifications, if needed, to reduce your risk for injury.
12. Safe for most people, including kids
Cardiovascular exercise is recommended for most groups of people, even those who are older or who have chronic health conditions. The key is working with your doctor to find what works best for you and is safe in your particular situation.
Even children should get regular aerobic exercise. In fact, recommendations for kids are slightly higher than for adults. Aim to get your child moving at least 60 minutes or more each day. Moderate activities are good, but kids should get into the vigorous zone at least three days each week.
13. Affordable and accessible
You don’t need any fancy equipment or a gym membership to work out. Getting daily exercise can be as easy as taking a walk around your neighborhood or going for a jog with a friend on a local trail.
Other ways to get your aerobic exercise for free or cheap:
- Check local schools or community centers for pool hours. Many offer free admission to residents or have sliding scale rates. Some centers even offer free or inexpensive fitness classes to the general public.
- Browse online to find free workouts on sites . Fitness Blender, Yoga with Adriene, and Blogilates are popular channels.
- Check with your employer about discounts or free memberships at area gyms. If your workplace doesn’t offer anything, you may be eligible for incentives through your health insurance provider.
Speak with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine. While aerobic exercise is appropriate for most people, there are certain situations where you may want to be under guidance of a physician.
- Exercise lowers blood sugar. If you have diabetes, check your blood sugar levels before and after exercise. Eating a healthy snack before you start sweating will also help prevent your levels from dipping too low.
- Spend extra time warming up before beginning your activity if you have muscle and joint pain, such as with arthritis. Consider taking a warm shower before lacing up or heading to the gym. Shoes with good cushioning and motion control can also help.
- If you have asthma, look for exercises with shorter bursts of activity, tennis or baseball. That way you can take breaks to rest your lungs. And don’t forget to use an inhaler when necessary.
- If you’re new to exercise, ease in to activity. Start over several weeks by doing 10 to 20 minutes every other day. This will help with fatigue and muscle soreness.
Your doctor can offer more guidelines and suggestions for your specific condition or fitness level.
Most people should aim to get around 30 minutes of moderate cardiovascular activity at least five days each week. This works out to around 150 minutes or 2 1/2 hours per week. You can mix up intensities and activities to keep it interesting.
If you’re new to activity, start short and slow. You can always build as your fitness level improves. Remember: Any movement is better than no movement.
If you’re pressed for time, consider breaking up your exercise throughout the day into several 10-minute chunks. Even short sessions of aerobic exercise are enough to reap the benefits.
The Main Health Benefits of Cardio Exercise
If you are new to working out or returning to the gym, deciding what kind of exercises you should do can be overwhelming. While it doesn’t hurt to try a little bit of everything, there are some exercises that will be more beneficial toward your goals.
For instance, cardio is one of the best and most popular types of exercises people perform. However, a lot of people also despise cardio in any form.
Even though you may not find the physical activity of cardio enjoyable, it has a lot of major health benefits—discover a few reasons to start doing cardio.
Great for Weight Loss
One of the main reasons why people adopt a cardio exercising routine is because it can help you lose weight.
Cardio is a great exercise for those looking to slim down because it helps you burn fat and lose calories.
While diet is more instrumental in weight loss, you will want to work cardio into your routine to further advance your goal to shed a few pounds. This is because cardio can burn hundreds of calories in a session.
Strengthens Your Heart
Cardiovascular relates to the heart and blood cells, so when you perform a cardio exercise such as running or biking, you strengthen your heart. This is due to the fact that cardio exercise makes your heart rate accelerate and properly pump blood. As a result, this strengthens your heart, which is arguably one of the most important organs of your body.
Reduces the Risk of Several Diseases
Cardio exercise also helps reduce the risk of several deadly diseases. Roughly 1.5 million people suffer from heart attacks and strokes annually in the United States.
Cardio exercise is one way you can reduce the risk of heart attacks and disease along with their underlying causes such as high blood pressure and cholesterol.
Many people also suffer from diseases such as diabetes and cancer, and fitting in time for physical activity cardio can also help you prevent these diseases.
Improves Lung Capacity
Many people tend to shy away from cardio because it can be tough to breathe as you perform the exercise. However, that heavy breathing you are experiencing is actually improving your lungs. Cardio will increase your lung capacity as you push your breathing ability to the limit during a tedious workout.
Naturally Boosts Energy
It is quite common for people to consume energy drinks and coffee throughout the day to stay alert. Other people can’t get through a day without taking a long nap. But these methods can be harmful to your health if you overdo them. A healthier option is cardio exercise.
It can naturally boost your energy, which is why many people start their day off with some cardio in the early hours of the morning. When our body goes through an activity that requires energy, such as running, it releases endorphins.
These increased endorphin levels, in turn, boost our energy.
Great for Mental Health
Since cardio exercise releases endorphins, another benefit is that it simply makes you feel good afterward. Cardio is a healthy way to combat mental health issues depression, anxiety, or stress. Many people have coined the feeling one experiences after physical conditioning as a “runners high.
” Aside from the endorphins, as you are doing cardio, you are challenging yourself mentally. There are bound to be many times throughout your workout when you feel you may quit. Pushing through a tough workout and eventually finishing gives you a great sense of accomplishment and leads to a natural “high” you may feel afterward.
When you get into the routine of doing cardio exercise, you will start to feel better about yourself overall and improve your confidence.
Many professionals recommend you get at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night; however, a lot of people do not accomplish this. This results in low energy that can make the day a huge pain to get through.
For many, good sleep is difficult to come by simply because it’s hard to fall asleep. When you add cardio to your lifestyle, you will begin to experience a higher quality of sleep. With cardio as part of your day, you’re sure to feel tired come the evening, which is right before going to bed.
In turn, this will make it far easier to get in bed and fall asleep at a reasonable hour.
Helps the Immune System
Nobody wants to get sick. You may not be able to afford to miss work or have an important event coming up. The worst thing about getting sick is that it often happens nowhere, perhaps at the most inconvenient time. However, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Cardio exercise can help your immune system fight any bacterial infections you may be vulnerable to because it changes your antibodies and white blood cells.
With regular cardio exercise, the antibodies or white blood cells in your body will move around faster and gain a better ability to find potential illnesses.
Adding 20 minutes of cardio to your daily routine three to five days a week comes with all these incredible health benefits. Plus, it doesn’t need to be boring. You can add in plenty of variation, so your cardio workouts won’t feel so overwhelming. Further, you can easily choose the intensity at which you perform cardio exercises.
The main point is that we are not meant to sit around all day—we need to keep our bodies active and moving. Cardio is one of the best ways to remain fit and treat your body as a temple. Additionally, it’s one of the easier exercises to compete because you can do it outside, at the gym, or at home.
For those looking for a convenient way to get their cardio in, equipment such as the Inspire Fitness cardio strider, Precor treadmill, or exercise bike, are all great options. And the good news is Top Fitness Store offers them all! Browse our offerings to find a machine that suits your lifestyle.
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Cardio 101: Benefits and tips
In a nutshell, the term aerobic means “with oxygen.” Aerobic exercise and activities are also called cardio, short for “cardiovascular.
” During aerobic activity, you repeatedly move large muscles in your arms, legs and hips. Your heart rate increases and you breathe faster and more deeply.
This maximizes the amount of oxygen in your blood and ultimately helps you use oxygen more efficiently.
How well you use oxygen is called your aerobic capacity. When your aerobic capacity is high, your heart, lungs and blood vessels efficiently deliver large amounts of oxygen throughout your body. As a result, you feel more energized and don't tire as quickly.
If you are a beginner to exercise, start with low to moderately intense cardio activities, so you can do them for long periods of time and gain many health benefits. Common examples include walking, bicycling, swimming, dancing and water aerobics, but don’t limit yourself: You can choose any activities you enjoy, such as canoeing, in-line skating, golfing or martial arts.
If you haven’t gotten enough aerobic exercise, you may use your entire aerobic capacity while walking up a flight of stairs. You'll realize this when you get to the top and feel breath. But if you're fit, you'll have no problem because your aerobic capacity is greater. That’s just one example of how you can benefit from cardio exercise.
Cardio exercise and activities can also:
- Strengthen your heart and muscles
- Burn calories
- Help control your appetite
- Boost your mood through the release of endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals released by your brain
- Help you sleep better at night
- Reduce arthritis pain and stiffness through joint movement
- Help prevent or manage high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes
No matter what your age, aerobic exercise will help you in your daily activities and increase your stamina and endurance.
If you're a beginner, start slowly. You might walk five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening. Gradually add a few minutes to each session and then pick up the pace a bit. Soon you could be walking briskly for 30 minutes a day. Also consider hiking, cycling, jogging, rowing, elliptical training — any activity that increases your breathing and heart rate.
Take a three-pronged approach
Include three elements in your workout:
- Warm-up. Before each session, warm up for five to 10 minutes to gradually rev up your cardiovascular system and increase blood flow to your muscles. Try a low-intensity version of your planned activity. For example, if you plan to take a brisk walk, warm up by walking slowly.
- Conditioning. At your own pace, work up to at least 30 minutes of cardio a day to develop your aerobic capacity by increasing your heart rate, depth of breathing and muscle endurance.
- Cool-down. After each session, cool down for five to 10 minutes. Stretch your calf muscles, quadriceps (upper thighs), hamstrings, lower back and chest. This after-workout stretch allows your heart rate and muscles to return to normal.
Moderate activity should cause you to breathe faster and feel you're working. But if you experience unusual pain or alarming symptoms during exercise, stop immediately and seek medical attention.
10 Best Cardio Activities
Maintaining your cardiovascular fitness is one of the most important things you can do to maintain your health, longevity and overall mood.
Exercise has been proven to alleviate symptoms of depression and can even help curb an excessive appetite.
Weight training and yoga are great for your body, but you need to include cardiovascular workouts into your exercise routine to keep your heart healthy.
To get the most your cardiovascular workout, determine your target heart rate. Once you have elevated your heart rate to your target level, you will want to be sure to keep it at that level for a minimum of 10 minutes. Find out more by contacting an insurance agent in your area.
There are several different activities you can choose from to raise your heart rate sufficiently. Below are the ten best exercises you can engage in.
Top Choices for Beginners:
Average calories burned: 360/hour when walking at 4.25 miles per hour
Walking is an excellent way for people to begin their journey into cardiovascular fitness. When the weather outside is mild, it can be extremely enjoyable to put on your headphones and take a stroll through your neighborhood.
For many beginners, walking at a rate of about 3.0 miles per hour is a good starting point. If you work your way up to at least 4.0 miles per hour or spend a good portion of your walk going up hills, you can get your heart rate up sufficiently.
On days that the weather is not cooperative, you can do your walking on a treadmill. While the scenery is not as interesting, a treadmill will lower the impact on your joints as you step and will allow you to monitor your rate of speed.
Average calories burned: 375/hour at a leisurely pace, or 600/hour with a high-intensity session
Step aerobics was very popular in the 80s and 90s but has since tapered off a bit. However, this is one of the best ways for beginners to transition from couch potatoes to fitness stars in the privacy of the home.
You can use a step aerobics video to get the hang of the different steps and can then improvise your own workout while watching TV. Using a stepper is a quiet activity that requires very little room in your home.
If you spend just a half-hour a day slowly stepping while watching your favorite sitcom, you could burn an extra 1,300 calories a week and lose two pounds a month. Doing this activity faster, more intensely or for longer periods of time will have an even greater impact.
Average calories burned: 425/hour when moving at a slow, comfortable pace or 600/hour at a brisk pace
Elliptical trainers are a great choice for beginners, as you can start off slow and work your way up to expert fitness levels all on the same machine.
Elliptical trainers are some of the most popular cardio-fitness machines at the gym with good reason. These machines work both your upper and lower body while providing a low-impact workout.
You can vary your workout by going forward or backward on them. Most people find these machines intuitive to use and easy to stay on for long periods of time.
Top Choices for People on a Budget:
Average calories burned: 600/hour running at 5.2 mph
Running is one of the most popular cardiovascular workouts for people on a budget. When the weather cooperates, your neighborhood can provide you with diverse and interesting courses to run, or, you can choose to run on a treadmill at your local gym or in your own home.
Many people who run long distances feel what they describe as a “runner’s high” when they no longer feel the effort they are putting into the workout and just enjoy the run. One disadvantage to running is that it can be hard on your knees and other joints.
You can alleviate some of this by wearing good running shoes and by running lower-impact surfaces a treadmill or track.
Calories burned: 500 – 1000/hour, depending on speed and surface incline
Biking is a great workout that can be enjoyed during most seasons of the year. Aside from the initial investment made in the purchase of a bike and a helmet, this is an activity that is great for people on a budget.
Many people find it easy to incorporate biking into daily life. For some, biking to work is a viable option while others find they can use bikes for running errands.
In addition to getting a great workout, you can also save money on fuel costs.
Average calories burned: 660/hour
While jumping rope permits you to burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time, very few people can jump rope longer than about 15 minutes at a time.
Jump ropes are inexpensive and provide an alternative exercise that you can fit in between other workout routines such as stretching, weight training or crunches.
It is a great way to get your heart rate up quickly and keep it up for several minutes. A jump-rope is a very inexpensive fitness tool.
Top Choices for High Calorie Burning:
Average calories burned: 660/hour
Cross-country skiing is an enjoyable winter activity that has the added advantage of providing a high-intensity full-body workout. The same workout you can get while on skis can also be achieved by using a ski machine, though many find this activity less appealing than the real thing.
Average calories burned: 800/hour doing the breast stroke at fast pace
Swimming is probably the best cardiovascular activity you can try. It is extremely easy on your joints, and the water provides excellent resistance that allows you to tone your muscles.
Swimming provides a full-body workout and keeps you cool and refreshed while working out.
While many gyms do not include lap pools, you can usually get a very inexpensive membership at your local high-school or YMCA that will allow you to swim year-round in the indoor pool.
Average calories burned: Up to 750/hour during an intense workout
Kickboxing provides more than just an excellent workout; many people report that it is an extremely effective stress-reliever.
You can opt to do this activity at home using a kickboxing video or you can enroll in a kickboxing class that will keep you motivated while providing the added benefit of a social activity.
Not only does this activity burn a lot of calories, it warms and stretches your muscles and can even provide you with some self-defense training.
Average calories burned: 660/hour
Rowing machines provide a surprisingly good full-body workout. However, many people tend to avoid using them at the gym. Perhaps this is because they are uncertain of how exactly to use them.
If you have been eying the rowing machine lately, it may be a very good idea to ask a staff member at the gym how to use it properly. You will be glad you did. The machines work and stretch the muscles in your body while raising your heart rate to target levels quickly.
The workout is deceptively intense, so it may be a good idea to start out using the machine for only 10 to 15 minutes and then working your way up.
Start Working Out Today
Maintaining your cardio fitness will improve your health and enable you to live a longer, fuller life. It may also earn you lower rates on your health and life insurance policies. So, stop sitting there are your computer reading this article, and get up and exercise. You’ll be glad you did. Find out more by contacting an insurance agent in your area.