Cardiovascular exercises, or cardio, are designed to challenge a person’s cardiovascular endurance. These exercises raise your heart and breathing rates for ten or more minutes. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends at least 75 to 150 minutes of moderate to high-intensity exercise in a week. Cardio exercises are ideal for people with health and weight goals.
Cardio workouts are safer and effective when frequency, duration, and intensity are balanced well. It is essential to include warm-up and cool-down periods before and after each workout.
Best Cardio Workouts
Jumping rope: Jumping rope strengthens leg muscles and develops tendons’ and connective tissues’ elasticity. It allows you to build arm and abdominal muscles as well. It is crucial to do low jumps to lessen the impact and avoid injuries to the knees and ankles. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends at least 15 minutes of this moderate-intensity exercise daily.
Jumping jacks: This is a full-body exercise and a healthy workout for the muscles, heart, and lungs. If you’re a beginner, start with a few jumps at low to moderate intensity, working up to two sets of ten or more.
Running in place: According to a study, running in place strengthens the muscles, reduces muscle fatigue, and improves aerobic endurance. It would be best to do this workout in intervals such as three minutes of running in place, followed by a minute of rest, three minutes of running in place, and so on.
Elliptical: Working out on an elliptical machine offers the cardio benefits you can get from running or walking, though with less impact on your joints. Ideal for individuals with arthritis or a history of knee or leg injury.
Stair climber: Working out on a stair climber benefits lower body strength. Building your stamina using a stair climber requires time, so begin and gradually work up to a longer duration. It is essential to do this exercise with a good posture.
Stationary bike: An exercise bike benefits a person’s leg muscles, and you can work out at your own pace. It bears less impact on the joints compared to other cardio machines. It is, thus, ideal for individuals with joint issues. The exercise bike works the leg muscles, and a person can choose their pace.
Treadmill: This exercise machine offers the cardio benefits of running, though less stress on your joints. The best part about treadmills is that they are convenient and customizable according to their unique fitness levels, endurance, or problem areas. Start at slow speeds, gradually working up to higher rates and longer duration.
Doing Cardio Right
Whether working out at home or in a gym, it is vital to ensure your safety and avoid injury.
- Allow for sufficient space for unhindered movement.
- Do warm-up with low-impact exercises and stretching.
- Secure rugs or carpets to ensure they will not cause you to slip or fall.
- Wear proper workout attire that will not pose any danger of snagging onto protrusions. Also, always wear rubber footwear, especially on hard floor surfaces.
- Take regular water breaks for proper hydration.
- Do not over-exert yourself. Do not go beyond your maximum age-heart rate. You can estimate this by subtracting your age in years from 220. For example, you are 45 years old: 220-45=175. You should not exceed 175 bpm (beats per minute) post-workout.
- Do cool-down with low-impact exercises and stretching.
It is always advisable to seek a professional medical opinion before starting with a workout program. This is to avoid possible health risks or avoid aggravating any existing medical conditions.
Is Your Workout Working?
Generally, what’s known as the best measure of cardiovascular fitness or endurance is VO2 max. It measures the amount of oxygen your body consumes during the exertion of maximum effort in mL/kg/min (milliliters per minute according to body weight). Testing the VO2 max is vital in analyzing expired air while you are on a bike or treadmill. The higher the VO2 max, the better your aerobic fitness because your body can utilize more oxygen.
In contrast, heart rate measures the intensity of exercise. Also, VO2 max is measured during exercise and is not the same as EPOC, which measures oxygen utilization after a workout.
Cardio exercises are designed to increase the heart rate and help if you have weight goals. Common cardio exercises include running, brisk walking, running, biking, swimming, among others. Gym machines designed for cardio exercises are stationary bikes, treadmills, and elliptical machines. When embarking on any fitness training program, it is always wise to integrate warm-up and cool-down exercises into every session, wear appropriate clothing and gear, and seek professional medical advice, especially if health risks are present.