7 Must-Try Forms of Cardio to Diversify Your Routine
Anyone who's serious about their fitness knows that there is no way to completely avoid cardio when working out. Whether you are aiming to lose some weight or training for general fitness and strength, some form of cardio will almost always creep its way into your regimen. The argument here is that it gets your blood pumping and warmed up for the exercise. It has also been associated with improved heart health, weight loss, and stress reduction. And who doesn't want that?
But even with all the great cardio benefits, this form of exercise can get a little boring. It is even worse if you do the same ol' exercise every day. What most people don't realize is that there is more to cardio than just working the treadmill for hours on end. There are a vast array of other cardiovascular exercise routines you can try that can go miles in spicing up what you’ve grown accustomed to.
This blog will serve as a handbook for all the different types of cardio workouts out there. We shall showcase the many ways you can incorporate regular cardio exercise into your fitness routine, as well as look at how long you should do cardio and how to determine your aerobic threshold.
What is considered cardio?
Cardio, or cardiovascular exercise, is described as any activity that gets your heart pumping or beating faster. In the process, you are forced to take deeper breaths, which ultimately improves the functionality of your lungs. However, it is important to note that cardio vs strength training is different.
Next to improving your overall health, cardio has been proven to help:
- Strengthen your blood vessels and heat
- Lowers cholesterol and blood pressure
- Improve oxygen flow through your body
- Promotes brain function
- Relieves stress, depression, and anxiety
- Lower the risk of conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and even Alzheimer's
What are the main types of cardio?
There are many different types of cardio workouts that are true to the description above. To get the most out of the exercise, you are encouraged to diversify by incorporating as many of them to work different body muscles.
The most popular cardio types include HIIT, cycling, running, walking, box jumping, and jumping rope.
Each cardio exercise yields its own special results, therefore, you can focus on one depending on the body type you are aiming for. Whether it is burning fat, getting shredded, or increasing muscle mass, there is a cardio exercise that will help you get there.
Let's delve a bit more into this.
Running is, hands down, the most popular type of cardio that people turn to – and for good reason. Typical as it may be, it is a simple yet effective way of burning your calories in a short amount of time. In fact, studies show that running for 5-10 minutes each day lowers the risk of cardiovascular diseases and death.1
To make it interesting, you can try different forms of running. If you like the outdoors, you can go for a jog or sprint outside, or even run up and down the stairs. If you prefer doing your workouts indoors, a non-motorized treadmill will be perfect for you. This way you not only switch up to different resistance levels but also track your progress. The non-motorized version is especially convenient because it doesn't need power to operate.
A few benefits you stand to gain from a regular run include:
- Strengthens our overall body muscles
- Helps retain healthy weight
- Reduces cholesterol and blood pressure levels
For the most part, people consider swimming a leisure or fun activity. However, with a little technique, it can be a great low impact cardio-exercise one can do regularly. If you do it right, you'll get to work your lower and upper body as well as your core without feeling the strain.
Of course, this depends on the type of stroke you are doing. For instance, the Butterfly is more intense, so it burns more calories than, say, the Breaststroke.
For best results, you want to start by warming up by paddling before delving into the lengthier, more intense strokes.
Benefits of swimming include:
- Builds cardiovascular endurance and strength
- Tones your whole body's muscles
- Reduces stress
Cycling is one of those exercises that don't really feel like an exercise. Sure, it is technically a lower impact exercise, but it still works your lower body muscles like running does, only without stressing your joints too much.
A good way to get in a little cycling is to use a bicycle when going for short commutes, instead of driving. Alternatively, you can use a stationary bike in the comfort of your home or even join a spin class at a gym.
The best part about a stationary bike is that you get to control the intensity of the workout. Using an exercise bike with fan wheel allows you to adjust the resistance and height to your liking, and keep track of your progress by monitoring the distance, time, heart rate and calories burnt.
A vigorous cycling session will have you burning up to 1150 calories each hour. A moderate ride will also burn up to 600-700 calories per hour.
Benefits of cycling include:
- Increases your bone density
- Decreases stress
- Provides relief for joint pain and stiffness
HIIT is a popular acronym you'll hear in the world of fitness. It stands for High Intensity Interval Training. As the name suggests, it involves starting off with short bursts of intense exercises, then transitioning to low-intensity exercises or brief rest periods. What you get from HIIT is an all-rounded workout that burns a lot of calories and fats.
A few HIIT exercises you might be familiar with include squat jumps, burgees, reverse crunches, and star jumps. For best results, you can incorporate weights into the movements while reducing the periods of rest in between each exercise.
A few benefits you stand to gain from HIIT include
- Burns calories fast
- Lowers blood pressure
- Helps strengthen muscle
The jump rope might seem like a kids' play activity, but it is actually quite effective in burning up calories fast. This is why you'll find the jump rope a staple in the training regimen of wrestlers and boxers. Other than enhancing shoulder strength and footwork, it also increases foot speed and coordination.
What's good about jump rope is that it is cheap and doesn't need any particular skill to execute. Some people go for weighted jump ropes to make it a little more intense.
Benefits of jumping rope include:
- Improves agility
- Burns calories
- Improves foot speed and coordination
Walking is another highly underrated form of cardio whose effects can prove beneficial in the long run. Perhaps the best way to take advantage of this form of cardio is by trying to do it as often as possible. Instead of driving to the store, walk there. Walk around the house any chance you get or around the workplace during breaks.
If you are more serious about burning calories through walking, you can also try power walking, which is merely picking up your pace while walking. To reap the benefits of power walking, aim for speeds of about 3 miles per hour.
Benefits of walking regularly include:
- Provides relief for joint pain
- Boosts immune system
- Burns calories and body fat
- Reduces risk of cardiovascular disease
- Increases the overall strength of your muscles
If you are specifically aiming to strengthen your lower body (glutes, quads, hips, and thighs), you can try out box jumping. It simply involves jumping from the floor surface onto a raised surface (like a box).
It is classified as a plyometric exercise, meaning it involves short bursts of force that end up activating loads of muscles and burning a lot of calories.
Doing regular box jumps comes with various benefits, including:
- Builds strength and speed
- Improves agility and performance in sports
- Strengthens lower muscles
- Burns calories and increases heart rate
Of course, the more you do it, the more powerful you become. Ultimately, you'll be able to jump taller boxes and move faster.
What types of cardio are best?
So now you are probably wondering, what type of cardio is the best out of all these, or which one is the healthiest to perform?
Well, the short answer is that there is no one-shoe-fits-all cardio exercise for you. Each exercise has something to bring to the table. It all falls down to your goals and what you intend to achieve.
For instance, if you want to lose weight, you want to lean towards high-intensity workouts like running, or jumping rope. If you want to tone your body, swimming can be pretty effective, provided you focus on an appropriate swimming style.
Likewise, a low-intensity activity like walking can yield long benefits in the long run. What is important is that you start something, and make it a part of your regular workout routine, much like brushing your teeth or even checking your social media.
You also have the option of switching it up between the different cardio exercises. This will allow you to work different muscle groups and reduce risk of injuries or boredom due to repetition.
How can you incorporate more cardio into your workout regimen?
An ideal workout consists of a nice blend of resistance weight training with a few cardio exercises spruced in. Perhaps the best way to incorporate cardio into an already established regimen is to start off slow with low-intensity workouts, then gradually work your way up to higher-intensity activity in the days or weeks that follow.
Other tricks you can use to incorporate cardio into your workout include:
- Exercise with friends or join cardio classes
- Set goals and a work-out schedule
- Start with a cardio type that you enjoy, such as swimming
- Break the monotony by mixing up different cardio types
- Have a variety of conditioning equipment readily available to keep your workouts exciting
How long should you do cardio for?
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that you do at least 150 minutes each week of physical activity for adults, elderly, and even disabled persons. This translated to about 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio for five days a week.
However, this isn't set in stone. How long you should do cardio should largely depend on your personal fitness goals.
You can break it down into 10 – 15 minute workouts in the course of the day. Alternatively, if you've been exercising a while and are already fit, you can do more vigorous exercises for shorter time periods. These can be 25-minute workouts for three days a week.
There are no two ways about it; no workout regimen is complete without a bit of cardio. Its benefits are way too many to ignore. By diversifying, you can actually find a workout routine that you enjoy, making it all far more bearable. So feel free to experiment and see what works for you. It might seem hard as you start out, but if you do a little bit of it every day, it will be second nature in no time.
Of course, it is also easier to achieve your fitness goals if you have the equipment with you. At Tru Grit Fitness we have all you need to get started. This includes everything from a non motorized treadmill to stationary exercise bikes and weights, which will contribute to making your workouts more fruitful. So check out our website today and pick something out.