Cardio, or cardiovascular exercise, is the single most important type of exercise that you can do. Cardio is also called aerobic exercise. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), adults need to get at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise every day for good health and weight control. Cardio exercise increases your heart rate, makes you breathe faster and saturates your blood with oxygen. Cardio exercise also strengthens your heart and improves lung efficiency. Daily activities, such as climbing stairs, doing yard work or carrying the groceries from your car, are much easier to do when you are aerobically fit. As you become more aerobically fit, your endurance improves so that you don’t become fatigued or winded when you have to sprint to the car in the rain or run around outside when playing with your children. Cardio also helps burn fat and calories for weight loss and weight control. There are many different ways to get your daily 30 minutes of cardio exercise. See your doctor for a physical and then select an activity, or several types of exercise that you really enjoy and get moving for a healthier heart and a slimmer body.
Walking, Jogging and Running
Walking, jogging and running are popular cardio exercises. On warm spring and summer days, you will find many people enjoying a brisk walk, moderate jog or a vigorous run. You don’t need specialized or expensive equipment to walk, but if you run or jog you will need a good pair of jogging or running shoes to protect your feet, ankles and knees from the impact of your foot striking the ground. You will burn plenty of calories if you walk at a brisk pace for 30 minutes, but running burns twice as many calories as walking. Take your daily 30 minutes of brisk walking indoors when it’s too hot, too cold or too rainy to exercise outdoors. You can walk at a local gym or even in the mall. A treadmill is also an option when walking outdoors is not feasible. You can adjust the speed and incline of a treadmill for an intense cardio workout. Alternate the incline and speed of your treadmill for a good interval cardio workout. A brisk walk is not only a great cardio workout, it also works your calves, quadriceps on the front of your thighs, the hamstring muscles on the back of your thighs and your buttocks. Your hip flexors and your abdominal muscles also benefit from walking, jogging and running.
Swimming is a whole body cardio workout that strengthens your heart, lungs and all of the major muscles in your body. Swimming is a powerful cardio exercise for everyone, especially people who are overweight or have joint problems, such as arthritis. The water makes your body buoyant, so that even those who are seriously overweight can enjoy the cardiovascular benefits of swimming without placing stress on the joints. If you’re not a swimmer, water aerobics classes might be a better option for you. Water aerobics routines might include some equipment such as hand paddles, kickboards, floats and water dumbbells. The equipment is usually provided by the instructor or the gym, but you might have to invest in goggles, swim fins, a swim cap and of course a well-fitting swimsuit. Merely walking back and forth across the pool for 30 minutes is a good cardio workout because you will be pushing your body against the resistance of the water. Walk in water deep enough to provide resistance against your torso.
Cycling is an enjoyable cardio activity that combines aerobic activity with flexibility and endurance training. The whole family can get in on the fun and ride bikes in the park or around the block a few times. Cycling to work and back not only gives you a good cardio workout, it can also save gas money and train fare. Cycle at a slow pace for 5 minutes to warm up and then ride at a steady, but brisk pace for 20 minutes to get the full benefit of a cardio workout on your bike. Cool down by riding at a leisurely pace for 5 minutes after your ride. Recumbent bicycles are another option for cycling cardio fitness. You ride a recumbent bike in a reclined position which reduces stress on your hips, knees and ankle joints. You also benefit from a lower center of gravity than an upright bike, which reduces the risk of a fall or crash. A recumbent bike may be a better option than riding a regular upright bike if you are overweight or suffer from joint or back pain. You can ride a stationary recumbent or upright bike at home or in the gym during extremely hot, cold or rainy weather. You can increase the intensity of your bike workout by riding in an area that includes uphill and level areas. If you are using a stationary bike, you can set the level of resistance to increase the intensity of your cardio workout. You can also vary the intensity of the resistance for a great cardio interval workout.
Kickboxing is becoming increasingly popular as a cardio workout. Kickboxing is a combination of boxing, punching, dance moves and martial arts that really works your muscles, heart and lungs. Kickboxing is typically a high intensity cardio workout that blasts fat and burns hundreds of calories in a short amount of time. Cardio kickboxing classes and home DVD workouts are often set to upbeat music to help you find your rhythm. You can burn up to 1,000 calories in one hour of kickboxing as you strengthen your muscles, heart and lungs. Soon you will find that you are punching, jabbing, kicking and twisting your way to a healthier heart and a slimmer body with a challenging kickboxing workout. You don’t need a punching bag or boxing gloves. There is no contact in cardio kickboxing but to be safe you should receive professional instruction before trying kickboxing moves at home. The high leg kicks and intense punching and twisting moves create the risk for injury if not performed properly. Kickboxing may not be a good choice for beginners or those who have not exercised regularly, because the cardio workout is intense.