Exercise is about health, and your heart is an essential part of that health. After all, it literally gives you life.
One can improve cardiovascular health through nutrition and a steady flow of exercise. Of course, some exercises and methods are better for cardio than others.
Here’s a brief overview of cardio exercises, as well as different way to do them.
The be all and end all of cardio exercise. Running needs no introduction, but its importance is worth restating.
Anyone can run or walk if they have a good pair of shoes. However, there’s a technique to running that’ll make the whole process easier on you. You want to keep your back straight, your shoulders rolled back and your head high. This opens your chest area up, allowing your lungs more room to expand as you breathe — which you hopefully do a lot.
If you’re a true beginner and simply don’t have the conditioning needed to run yet, walking is a great alternative. Though not as intense as running, walking will still provide conditioning benefits if you do it at a heart quickening pace. You can work up to running from there.
Maybe you’re tired of your feet touching the ground. Good news, we have bikes. We all get places quicker on wheels, so cycling can easily make your daily workout more scenic.
Unlike the focus on shock absorption in running, cycling places greater emphasis on the legs’ ability to push. This can lead to greater leg strength and improved joint health.
More than that, cycling is an easy way to make the most of exercise. It improves your health while taking you new places quickly.
Cardiovascular exercises may focus on what lowers your heart rate and increases blood flow, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work in strength training.
Circuit training focuses on high intensity and resistance training for the entire body. This affect’s attained through rapid use of calisthenics. While every circuit training routine is different, many include a variety of push-ups, sit ups, squat jumps, burpees and other body weight exercises performed in quick succession.
This gets your heart rate up while engaging every muscle. Circuit training a perfect follow up to any weightlifting or strength routine.
When you think “cardio,” the first image that comes to mind is one of someone running 30 minutes to an hour at a constant pace. This is an example of steady state cardio.
If cardio is about raising your heart rate, then steady state is about keeping that rate consistently high for a long time. For this method, you want to expose your body to a constant level of intensity and stress.
It’s a great way for beginners to start exercising. If you’ve taken a break, steady state’s also an easy way to break back in. Just run at a consistent pace for a specific amount of time. As your conditioning improves, quicken your pace or increase exercise length. Increase length and speed as you improve.
Most steady state exercise require repeatable movements, so exercises like running, rowing, cycling and swimming work best for the steady state approach.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) routines only last 15 to 20 minutes. However, a spike in intensity and required effort more than make up for the decreased time.
In an HIIT routine, one cycles between “on”-periods — when you exert maximum effort and intensity — and “off”-periods — when you lessen intensity to rest while still maintaining a steady pace.
There are multiple ways to allocate these “on” and “off” periods. The easiest way is by time, with on and off periods lasting only a few seconds. For example, one can sprint for 30 seconds for an on-period, lightly jog for 30 seconds to a minute for an off-period and repeat the cycle for 15 to 20 minutes.
Another allocation is by feeling. Your on periods last as long as you can maintain your intense pace. Your off periods are as long as it takes to lower your heart rate to pre-sprint levels. This translates to sprinting until you literally can’t anymore and jogging until you can sprint again.
This method maximizes the amount of time you spend “on,” leading to greater health benefits. At the same time, it’s easier to overexert yourself and risk injury. Only consider this option once you’ve gained sufficient knowledge about your conditioning and physical limits.
An easier option is to find a hilly area and intermittently sprint up the hill and jog down it.
Like steady state, one can use the HIIT for almost any cardio exercise. Be it running, rowing, cycling, swimming, jump rope, circuit training or any other form of cardio — they can always be reorganized into low and high intensity periods.