Cardiovascular exercise increases heart rate and respiratory rate. It also helps improve the flow of blood and oxygen around the body.
There are many benefits to cardio exercise, including:
- Improved heart health
- Increased metabolism
- Helps burn fat
- Increases lung capacity
- Improves mental wellbeing
- Reduces stress
- Gives you greater confidence
- Improves sleep patterns
- And more
Even a few minutes of cardio can give you some of these health benefits, and because the goal of cardio is to increase heart rate, you can use any of a number of exercise methods and techniques to get there.
Running, cycling, and rowing are all great options, and they can offer an incredibly intense level of exercise, but you don’t even need to leave the confines of your home to be able to complete regular cardio exercise.
The primary aim of cardio exercise is to raise your heart rate, which means that you don’t need to introduce or include resistance in your training regimen. It also means that there is no single best cardio exercise. Jogging works for a lot of people but is too uncomfortable for others.
You can also change cardio activity from one session to the next, which is especially important when you are aiming for a minimum of 3 sessions per week.
A proper warmup, performed by cardio, ensures that your muscles are warmed up before you start exercising.
This loosens them so that they move more freely and easily. It also improves blood flow, as the heart beats faster, and an effective warmup will also help prevent injuries incurred during your resulting workout.
Perform head and shoulder rolls, upper body twists, hip circles, knee circles, arm circles, and other stretches to loosen the body up and to get the blood flowing. You can
If you’re jogging or running for your cardio, you can start with a moderate walk or by marching in place.
Jumping jacks are another good warmup, and can also form the start of your cardiovascular exercise routine. As such, they are an excellent exercise to transition between warmup and your main routine.
Jumping jacks are a simple exercise that most people can perform. They exercise the calves, glutes, and hamstrings. By bending the arms slightly while you perform this exercise, you can also exercise the biceps and triceps.
To perform a jumping jack, start from a standing position with legs placed together and arms at the side of the body.
As you jump, spread your legs apart and move your hands above your head. As you land, your feet should be apart and hands above your head. Jump again and return your feet and hands back to their starting position.
The intensity of jumping jacks can be increased by simply jumping and performing the moves faster.
The first burpee you perform might feel easy, but as you perform more and more, it will soon become apparent why they are considered a brutal cardio exercise. After just 30 seconds of these rigorous exercises, muscles in the whole of your body will be aching and your lungs will feel well and truly stressed.
This fat burning favourite works the arms, back, chest, core, glutes, and your legs. It also causes a major increase in your heart rate, making them an excellent addition to any cardio workout.
To perform a basic burpee, start in a standing position before dropping into a squat with your hands on the floor in front of you.
From here, kick your feet back and into a raised plank position. Jump your feet back to your hands so that you’re in a squat position again, and finally jump into the air with your hands by your side.
Once you have mastered the burpee, and are looking to increase the intensity of these exercises, you can include a press up when you are in the plank position. You can also speed up the rate that you perform the burpees, although you should always ensure that you retain good form every time.
Mountain climbers are another great exercise for training the whole of your body and getting the heart pumping. They are regularly incorporated into High Intensity Integral Training (HIIT) routines.
One of the benefits of this cardio exercise is its simplicity. Form is easy, although you may find your position dipping as you progress through increasingly long sets.
Start in a push up or high plank position with your hands directly below your shoulders. Look directly ahead. Bend one knee and pull it up towards your chest until your knee is below your waist. Return back to your original position and then perform the same movement with the other leg.
Continue to alternate between legs without stopping.
Increasing the intensity of this exercise is easy. You can start out with very slow and deliberate movements and increase the speed at which you perform the movement as you improve.
Another way to increase the intensity of mountain climbers is to elevate the feet. This is an effective way of improving pushups and has the same benefit with mountain climbers.
Jogging In Place
When most people think of cardio exercises, one of the first things they think of is running, or jogging. However, not everybody enjoys jogging on the streets or even on a treadmill in the gym. Stationary jogging can be performed absolutely anywhere and is a convenient and effective cardio exercise.
Adopt a natural running position and, as you progress, you can increase difficulty by raising your knees to waist height with every step you take.
Studies have shown that skipping for 10 minutes has the same cardiovascular benefits as 30 minutes of jogging, which means it is great for those days where you are limited in the time you can spend exercising.
It offers a full body workout, too, and by using a range of variations, such as one foot hop skipping, you can mix up your routine, eliminating boredom and also increasing the intensity of your cardio workout.
Skipping for cardio is all about speed and intensity. Forget about the slow skipping movements from school. Take small jumps, keep form throughout the workout, and add this to your routine in order to enjoy excellent cardio results.
Andy Griffiths is an expert online personal trainer.
Having spent more than 5 years in the Royal Welsh Infantry and served as an All Arms Physical Training Instructor.
Today, Andy specialises in creating bespoke training and nutrition plans to help transform his clients.