The most effective fitness workouts are classified as “cardio” because they elevate the heart rate for an extended time.
Research has shown that such strenuous exercise bolsters the cardiovascular system, which reduces the risk of heart disease and strokes; and aids in maintaining the proper levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. Cardio also lessens the danger of developing musculoskeletal disorders like osteoporosis, while improving muscle mass. People lose fat, keep their weight under control, get stronger, and suffer less stress and depression.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 30 minutes of cardio exercise about every day for the average adult. Options range from indoor and outdoor activities, to the use of exercise equipment in a gym or other fitness facility.
Cardio at Home
Many workouts can be done in the privacy and comfort of home. They include running in place, racing up and down stairs, jumping rope and doing jumping jacks. Among the many floor exercises from which to choose are squat jumps, burpees, “mountain climbing,” bear crawls and kickboxing.
A wide range of home exercise equipment is available. Cardio workouts can be done with treadmills, stationary bicycles, rowing machines, elliptical trainers, weight machines and free weights.
Exercising outside offers the same advantages as indoor workouts, while also providing fresh air and open spaces that may reduce stress and balance the mind.
Running, perhaps the most popular form of outdoor cardio, is great for the heart and lungs. However, injuries to the knees, ankles and feet are common. Many people opt for jogging, speed walking, hiking or just plain old walking. Others alternate between walking and running.
Sports like tennis and basketball deliver cardio benefits. So do bicycling, cross-country skiing and snowboarding. Parents can get some quality time with the kids by playing baseball or football in the backyard. Frolicking with the family dog is good for the pet, as well as the human. These activities must be performed at an intense level to qualify as cardio.
Gyms and Training Centers
Home exercise equipment can be expensive, which is one reason people go to gyms, spas and other kinds of fitness centers. Some facilities employ experts who help people figure out which workouts are best for them, and advise how to properly use equipment. Those who exercise among others may receive encouragement and moral support, as well.
Some gyms feature amenities such as running tracks, swimming pools, and tennis and basketball courts. Many factors are involved in choosing a workout facility, including the cost of membership, proximity to home and types of equipment.
The most valuable form of cardio exercise depends upon a person’s age, health conditions, strength, mobility and fitness objectives. People not accustomed to such vigorous activity should consult with a doctor or other health-care provider before adopting a workout regimen. Beginners also need to get expert advice in how to perform the exercises in ways that maximize results while minimizing health and safety risks.
Overdoing it is counterproductive and painful, potentially resulting in injuries. Starting with short workouts, then gradually lengthening them, gives the body a chance to adapt. Warming up before exercising, and cooling down afterward, are critical. Varying the kinds of exercises prevents stressing the same muscles and joints every day.
Monitoring devices show when the ideal heart rate has been achieved.
Determining the rate entails subtracting a person’s age from 220, then computing 70 percent of that. The resulting figure is the optimal number of heart beats per minute.