What is Cardio?
Cardio is an abbreviation for cardiovascular exercises. Cario exercises which lift your heart rate and keep it elevated for a period of time are known as cardio exercises. Cardio exercises is said to be extremely beneficial for body. First of all, cardio exercises strengthens the heart and enhances the lung capacity. Cardio exercises are also suitable means of maintaining perfect metabolism and burning calories. Experts say that a regular habit of cardio exercises also helps you relieve stress as it promotes restful sleep and helps you relax.
Why is Cardio Important?
The heart is the main organ that keeps us all going and nothing like some good ‘ol cardio to keep your heart going. Performing at least 30 minutes of any of the following cardio exercises will greatly improve your heart function and keep it pumping at a healthy pace.
The Best Cardio Exercises
The following is a list of what I feel are some of the best cardio activities for blasting calories, burning fat and getting in great cardio shape.
- Running. Running is one of best cardio activities you can do - if your joints can handle it. unning doesn't require special equipment (except some quality shoes) and you can do it anywhere. Best of all, you burn serious calories, especially if you add hills and sprints. A 145-lb person can burn 300 (at 5.2 mph) in 30 minutes. The downside is, it takes lots of practice and you should watch your knees and ankles for any discomfort or pain. If you have bad knees and ankles opt for a lower impact cardio exercise like swimming, brisk walking, rowing, bicylcing or ellipitcal training.
- Cross-Country Skiing. Whether you're on a gym machine or swooshing over miles of snow, cross-country skiing is an incredible cardio exercise. What makes it so great is that it involves your upper and lower body, which means it doesn't take much to get your heart rate soaring. A 145-lb person burns about 330 calories during 30 minutes of skiing. The downside is: it's HARD. Take your time and ease into it.
- Swimming. Swimming, like cross-country skiing, is a full body exercise. Swimming involves nearly all major muscle groups. It is considered one of the best whole body workouts. Strokes like freestyle, backstroke, and breaststroke use abdominal, gluteals, biceps, quadriceps, triceps, and hamstrings. Swimming excellent for heart strength and low impact. The more body parts you involve in your workout, the more calories you'll burn. Spend 30 minutes doing the breastroke and you'll burn almost 400 calories. Best of all, your joints are fully supported so you don't have to worry about high-impact injuries. It's also great cross-training for other cardio activities.
- Rock Climbing. Rock climbing burns a whopping 380 calories in 30 minutes, but this isn't an activity for the faint of heart. Though you use strength and power with your arms and legs, rock climbing has a high learning curve and requires lots of special equipment and techniques so you don't hurt yourself.
- Bicycling. Outdoors or indoors, cycling gives some great cardio. Using all the power in your legs, you'll increase endurance while burning lots of calories, anywhere from 250-500 in 30 minutes, depending on how fast you go and how high your resistance is. It is a better option than running for people who may haved minor knee and ankle joint issues.
- Boxing/Kick boxing. It doesn’t matter if it is traditional boxing or kick boxing, both are great exercises for the heart. Both traditional boxing and kick boxing involves a lot of muscle groups. These are the bicep, quadriceps, hamstrings, Gastrocnemius and Soleus muscles, and Erector Spinae muscle group. In addition, both exercises include the abdominal muscles, internal and external oblique muscles groups, Pectoralis muscle group, and Latissimus muscle group. Kick boxing will strengthen the legs a bit more, but if balance is an issue, then try the traditional boxing first.
- Rowing. Unless you live near a body of water where you can rent a row boat, or have a boat of your own, then you will have to head to the gym for the rowing machine. This is an often overlooked machine in the gym because most people are confused about how it works. Rowing machines are easy to get the hang of and will get your heart pumping fairly quickly. You can burn approximately 300 calories in half an hour if done with vigor. It also gets your heart rate up and raises your metabolic rate for hours after the exercise is completed. Plus, rowing is probably not something you do very often which means you'll burn even more calories.
- Step Aerobics. Step Aerobics is one of the most popular cardio exercises. Step Aerobics works primarily the heart, legs, hips and butts. You can burn approximately 400 calories in half an hour if done with intensity. Step Aerobics might look complicated, but it is easy to learn if you start with a beginner Step Aerobics class or video.
- HIIT Cardio. HIIT stands for High Intensity Iterval Training. This form of cardio is a very intense method of cardio training and burns a very high amount of calories and keeps your body's metabolism increased for much longer periods than conventional "long & slow" cardio training. The reason that High Intensity Interval Training works better for fat loss than stanard cardio activity is when do a cardio session at the same pace the whole time, your body goes into what is called steady state. This means that your body has adjusted itself to the speed you are going and tries hard to conserve energy (calories). You will be able to avoid this and burn more calories and FAT by doing the interval training. The easiest way that I tell people to do it is to start off at a good pace for 5 minutes. Then take up the intensity on the machine and go as hard and as fast as you possibly can for a minute and then bring it back down for a minute or two — however long it takes for you to recover enough to do it again. ANY cardio machine will work — I like the treadmill and the elliptical trainer the best. Another easy way to introduce yourself to this kind of cardio without killing yourself right off the bat is simply to keep changing your speed and intensity level every two minutes or so — go up and down — challenge yourself. This will "trick" your body into burning more calories since it can not achieve steady state. HIIT cardio is recommend for only 20 minutes because its extremely intense.
- Handball. Handball is similar to racquetball but without the racquet. The side-to-side sprints used when playing a high-intensity game of handball will get your heart rate up as well as strengthen your legs. A high-intensity handball game can burn up to 1400 calories in 30 minutes. The learning curve is high, so plan on practicing a lot before you can even hit that little ball. Be sure to wear the goggles, these little rubber balls do hurt when they bounce off your your face, body and but!
- Elliptical Trainer. The elliptical trainer is a great way to build endurance while protecting your aching joints from high impact activities. Plus, if you use an elliptical trainer with arms, it's just like using a cross-country ski machine. The elliptical trainer is also a good choice for runners looking for a break from pounding the pavement. A 145-lb person burns about 300 calories in 30 minutes.
- Ashtanga Yoga. Ashtanga Yoga is a great combination of yoga poses and cardio aerobics. Ashtanga Yoga is great for core strengh and cardio workouts. Ashtanga Yoga is considered as the most physical form of Yoga. It involves traditional yoga poses and powerful aerobic moves at the same time. Ashtanga Yoga involves all major and minor muscle groups in the body. It’s considered total body work out that does not only burn fats but it also improves muscle joint mobility and flexibility. No fancy clothes are required and you won’t even need any shoes!
- Brisk Walking. Brisk walking is a great cardio exercise. You do not need any specialized equipment and can do it just about anywhere. Brisk walking can burn about 180 calories in 30 minutes when done properly. Adding hills, sprints or even a few minutes of jogging can increase the amount of calories you burn even further. Make sure you keep you head up, back straight and swing your arms to get the most benefit.
- About the Author
Jeff Behar, MS, MBA is a well known author, champion natural bodybuilder, is a recognized health, fitness and nutrition expert, personal trainer, and life coach with over 30 years of experience in the health, fitness, disease prevention, nutrition, and anti aging fields. As a recognized health, fitness and nutrition expert, Jeff Behar has been featured on several radio talk shows, TV, and featured in popular bodybuilding publications such as Flex and Ironman. Jeff's work has appeared all across the web, in books, and in peer reviewed scientific journals.
Jeff Behar is also the founder of the very popular www.MuscleMagFitness.com and www.MyBesthealthPortal.com health and wellness information websites; two of the largest 24/7 online web portals providing 24/7 news and information about top health, medicine, wellness, fitness, diet, nutrition, weight loss and anti aging issues that are being discussed today.