People start exercising for lots of different reasons. Whether you want to improve your fitness, tone muscle, or lose weight, cardio can help. You can vary your cardio routine, even including other workouts like strength training, to keep things interesting and to better achieve your goals.
What is cardio?
Cardio, or cardiovascular exercise, is a continuous exercise that aims to elevate the heart rate. This type of exercise can improve physical, emotional, and mental health.
Within this type of exercise, various low to high-impact and light to strenuous options exist. This means you should be able to find a cardio workout that suits your lifestyle, body, and health aims.
For instance, not everyone likes or can reasonably run several times a week. Some people dislike running, while others can’t do the exercise without feeling the strain on their knees. A lower-impact cardio workout like swimming or a spin class might be a better fit for someone who can’t or doesn’t like running.
Physical benefits of cardio
Many people start cardio aiming to lose weight. However, often their actual goal aligns more closely with wanting to burn fat. Losing weight can mean shedding muscle and water weight, whereas burning fat targets fat and often involves trying to tone up.
So, as stated above, cardiovascular exercise can:
- Help you lose weight.
- Burn fat.
- Build and strengthen muscles.
- Strengthen the heart, and reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Improve lung function.
- Lower blood pressure.
You should do cardio 3 to 6 times weekly for around 30 to 60 minutes to get the best results.
The non-physical advantages of doing cardio
It’s not just the body that cardiovascular exercise is good for. Frequent cardio exercise is good for the mind, body, and soul. It has been found to positively affect health in both an overall sense and in some precise ways. These include:
- Improving sleep.
- Feeling happier.
- Boosting energy.
- Enhancing cognitive function and memory.
- Strengthening the immune system.
- Cardiovascular exercise can even reduce the risk of developing diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Cardio can do many wonderful things for the mind and body. It can even have long-lasting and life-changing effects if done correctly and regularly.
With all these benefits on offer, it is obvious why you should build cardio into your fitness routine. But also consider things like whether you prefer to work out alone or with people. After all, you’re more likely to continue exercising and to see more benefits if you find ways to enjoy cardio.
Our top cardio routines:
Cardiovascular routines come in all shapes and sizes. Some are higher-impact on joints than others, and most can be scaled to better suit total beginners to cardio pros.
Running is one of the most popular cardio exercises and a great calorie burner. It requires no equipment, apart from a pair of trainers, and runners can go for as long or as fast as they choose. A new runner developed the couch to 5K program for new runners. The free program has helped many start their running journey.
Cycling is another cardio favourite. This exercise is a lower impact than running and is a preferable choice for many. Additionally, while you may need to have or borrow a bike for cycling outdoors, that’s not your only choice. Most gyms have static bikes, and many run spin classes where you can get your heart rate up, strengthen your core and leg muscles, and lose fat.
HIIT workouts quickly became one of the best-loved cardio workouts. It involves bouts of high-intensity exercises spaced with lower-intensity ones that keep the heart rate up. This is one of the best cardio workouts for burning fat fast.
Swimming is a non-impact cardio and strength training exercise rolled into one. It’s a great way to work your muscles and burn calories and fat while strengthening the heart.
Walking is another low-impact and lower-intensity exercise that keeps the heart rate up and burns calories and fat. Hiking and stair climbers (or just climbing stairs) can help involve more resistance training and a core muscle workout into a cardio exercise like walking.
Jumping rope is one of the highest intensity and highest impact cardio workouts. Because of this, it’s not necessarily the best to do every day. However, it’s a great way to work arm and leg muscles while quickly burning calories. All you need to get started is a little time and a jump rope.
Working out safely
You should consider monitoring your heart rate if you want to get the most from your cardio workout. Too low, and you won’t see the full benefits of your efforts or too high, putting your heart under unnecessary stress and strain.
There are plenty of heart monitoring tools, including wrist straps and watches like Fitbits. Most gyms also have fitness equipment that can monitor heart rates. 220 minus your age is one of the most common equations used. This sum gives the maximum heart rate you should hit when exercising, so someone 35 years old should have a heart rate of no more than 185 when working out.
By monitoring your heart rate, you can ensure you hit your ideal fitness or fat loss goals without overexerting yourself.
What should you know before you start your cardio journey?
There are a few things you should take note of before you start your cardio journey.
- It’s crucial you build rest into your workout regime. Your body and mind need downtime to recover and start stronger than before.
- Listen to your body. The same cardio workouts won’t work well for everyone, and you might need to switch things up. For instance, if you run a lot and start experiencing pain in your knees, you should swap out your run for a lower-impact exercise like swimming or cycling for a few days.
- Choose exercises that you enjoy. You’re more likely to keep it up if you don’t dread doing it.
- Remember that it’s okay to make mistakes. You’re bound to miss workouts here and there, and that’s alright. One skipped session isn’t going to ruin what you’ve been working towards, so don’t be too hard on yourself.