Cardio workouts are any exercises that raise and maintain your heart rate and improve the flow of blood and oxygen throughout your body. While once confined to running circles on a track or spending endless hours on a treadmill, cardio has evolved as we now recognize the aerobic value of many more options including strength training and intervals.
Starting with the most basic cardio training:
Jogging and Running
Still a great option and a great exercise for the outdoor track or indoors on a treadmill. Jogging burns about 450 calories per hour and running burns about 550 calories. These two options are referred to as “steady state cardio” and improve your aerobic fitness. Maintain a brisk pace for at least 30 minutes for 3-5 days each week for the best aerobic benefits.
Swimming is an excellent cardio choice as it requires movement of all major muscle groups without subjecting your body to jarring stresses of pounding pavement. Lap swimming burns 500 to 600 calories per hour improves endurance and stamina and helps tone your muscles.
Step aerobics and similar dance classes and programs are fun and burn in excess of 600 calories depending on your intensity. Music, fun and excellent cardio training and calorie and fat burning.
Kickboxing and boxing fitness programs are intense cardio training and burn in excess of 700 calories per hour. Fun and extremely challenging with excellent cardio benefits. To increase the effectiveness of your boxing and kickboxing workouts, add periods of rope jumping to increase heart pumping action and burn more calories.
Circuit and Interval Training
A more recent addition to our cardiovascular options, interval training and specifically High Intensity Interval Training use a combination of short intense bouts of resistance training alternating with short bouts of active recovery and cardio training and moving quickly from one set of exercises to another. You can also develop HIIT workouts using bodyweight exercises performed in quick succession to increase your heart rate and burn added calories. An added benefit of HIIT training is that it has been shown to increase your metabolism and burn calories both during and after you finish training. HIIT training can burn calories for up to five hours after your workout.
These cardio options each have specific benefits, but choose the approach that you enjoy, if you find an option that is fun, you will be more likely to stick with it. Keep in mind that any form of exercise that raises your heart rate 20-30 minutes counts as cardiovascular exercise, a brisk walk, a bicycle ride or even yard all have positive aerobic effects.