You heard about how important cardio workouts are and all the rage on this type of exercise but what are they exactly? How easy it is to implement it into your routine?
In this post, we’ll define what cardio exercise is, the benefits of cardio and several ways to make cardio exercise part of your fitness routine.
Cardio is also known as cardiovascular exercise, is a type of physical activity that increases your heart rate above resting levels and keeps it up for a sustained period of (at least 10 minutes).
During cardio exercise like an aerobic workout, oxygen is the main source of energy to sustain the exercise. As the exercise feels more vigorous, you tend to breathe harder and your heart beats faster.
This combination helps you to use oxygen more efficiently by increasing oxygen and blood flow throughout the body.
How efficient a person uses oxygen during a cardio activity is dependent on several factors like age, genetics, and gender. Even though these factors are out of control, you would be pleased to know that there are other factors that you can do to improve your cardiovascular fitness.
For many years, cardio is more well-known for aiding weight loss, but there are many other benefits to cardio exercises.
Read on to learn more about the health benefits of cardio exercise.
Benefits of Cardio Exercise
Compared to other types of exercise like strength training, cardio exercise tends to be more rhythmic and keeps your heart rate up for a longer period.
Meanwhile, strength training does not keep the heart up for the whole workout session. Thus, there is a slight difference when it comes to the benefits even though both types of exercise are beneficial for health in general.
While the list below is not exhaustive, they are a few points that explain what cardio exercise can do to your body.
Cardio exercise helps promote rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is beneficial for quality sleep. After doing a session during the day, you will notice that you tend to fall asleep faster than usual, giving you sufficient rest.
Having enough sleep also lowers blood pressure, lowering the risk of developing heart disease.
Endorphins released from cardio session usually lasts many hours, leaving you feeling energised throughout the day. This is why most physicians do not recommend doing intense physical activities close to bedtime as you will feel too awake to rest well.
- Weight and muscles
You get to manage your weight better with regular cardio exercises simply because of increased physical activity -> more movement, less sitting = burning more calories. And when your heart rate gets into your target heart rate zone, that is when you burn the most calories.
In terms of muscles, they work harder with increased oxygen supply from improved blood circulation so regular cardiovascular exercise will help your muscles get stronger, while also building endurance.
Exercising generally makes you feel better mentally. This is because hormones like serotonin and endorphins change in level when you exercise. Besides that, concentrating on a physical activity like aerobic dance can ease tension in skeletal muscles so you feel more relaxed.
In relation to the point on sleep, your mood can improve significantly just by having a restful night.
Low-impact cardio exercises are good for joints. Activities like walking, using the elliptical machine and swimming can improve blood circulation around the joints, thereby lubricating and strengthening the muscles and ligaments around joints.
- Heart and lungs
It is no mystery that doing cardio exercise is the best exercise for the heart – the term cardio kind of gives it away anyway. Having improved endurance not only benefits the heart but the lungs too.
This is due to increased workload on both the heart and lungs to supply oxygen to muscles requiring the supply. These organs become stronger over time with regular cardio exercise.
Easy Cardio Workouts to Do At Home
There are many different types of cardio exercises you can do whether you are in the gym or at home, with or without bulky fitness equipment. The easiest way to fit in cardio exercise in your fitness routine is to spend 15-30 minutes every day doing any of the following workouts.
The following are some of my favourite ones:
The treadmill is one of the most well-known fitness equipment for cardio exercises. It is popular among gym-goers and fitness enthusiasts. This type of machine can also be found in home gyms, where they are usually not as large as the commercial ones you find in public gyms.
There are many types of treadmills available to choose from according to your needs such as walking desk treadmills, foldable ones, manual or motorised ones and more.
- Rowing Machine
The rowing machine is a low-impact cardio machine, which goes easy on the joints but there is an option to up the intensity to include high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts.
Contrary to a common misconception that the indoor rower only works the upper body, this machine actually works the whole body, providing full-body workout benefits.
Rowing machine prices can vary from affordable to premium depending on the features. How to choose the most suitable one for your needs and budget? Check out the top indoor rowing machines for home use we have shortlisted in this post.
- Elliptical Cross Trainer
The elliptical cross trainer is also a low-impact cardio machine that mimics the natural movement of joints during walking and jogging without adding further strain on joints. This fitness machine is great for low-impact aerobic exercise.
Most elliptical cross trainers come with a heart rate monitor so you can conveniently monitor if your heart rate is in the right zone for cardiovascular health benefits. We also created a list of the best elliptical cross trainers in Australia for your convenience.
The aerobic stepper does not take up much space and it is very easy to work on. Play your favourite dance music or search for aerobic stepper workout videos on YouTube and follow-through.
- Skipping Rope
The skipping rope is so fun to use. It may even bring back childhood memories for some who used to play skipping rope during school recess. There are plenty of fancy movements besides the basic ones like alternate foot jumps, criss-cross and more.
Just remember to take it slow if you have not done it for a while. It is not worth it to risk injuring yourself when trying to adopt a healthier routine.
- Hula Hoop
There are the basic hula hoops and also weighted hula hoops. Many use hula hoops to manage their weight but through that, they also benefit from improved cardiovascular fitness and improved balance. I personally enjoy doing hula hoops while watching my favourite shows on Netflix.
The mini trampoline might unleash your inner child. The movement of bouncing up and down is not only fun but also increases endurance and helps strengthen leg muscles as well as burning calories to manage weight among other health benefits. You can also jog on the mini-trampoline.
- Climb the Stairs
Climbing up and down a flight of stairs for a good 20 minutes or using the stairs regularly throughout the day can provide great cardiovascular benefits besides burning calories.
Dancing is not only enjoyable, but it is also a type of cardio exercise. Play your favourite jam and dance your heart out. It does not have to look swag, just move and enjoy yourself. Speaking of enjoying yourself, you should also be wearing comfortable workout clothes for cardio especially if you are a woman doing high-intensity exercises.
- Walking/Jogging/ Running
If walking, jogging and running sound boring to you, find a beautiful garden or park near you and walk in the garden. Enjoy the nature while exploring the flora and fauna in the garden. You will not only feel more refreshed being out in the nature but also get to enjoy the benefits of cardio exercise.
- Follow At-Home Cardio Workouts on YouTube
There are thousands if not millions of workout tutorials on YouTube. Search for the one you like and follow along. There are plenty to choose from like aerobic dance, HIIT bodyweight workout, 30 minutes walking at-home cardio workouts and more.
Many people think yoga is slow and meditative but did you know that there is a type of yoga called cardio yoga? This type of yoga is a slight variance from the traditional yoga that most know of.
Cardio yoga includes more dynamic movements, which can increase and keep the heart rate up for a period of time. This in turn brings the benefits of cardio exercise into yoga practice.
Now that you know what cardio exercise is, the health benefits it can bring and some examples of cardio workouts, it is time to pick up cardio into your fitness routine.
Whether you like it outdoor, in a gym with others, or in the privacy of your own home, a mere 15 to 30 minutes a day of cardio exercise can help boost your health to the next level.
Do note that you should always consult with your physician before picking up a new exercise routine.
1. How often to do cardio exercises?
The general health guideline is to fit in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio activity per week. So that translates to 30 minutes of moderate-intensity of cardio exercise five times per week.
2. Do I need rest days from cardio exercise?
Rest days are essential for any type of physical activity you do. Even if there is no recommended limit to how much cardio exercise you do, having rest days can aid in avoiding injury. It will also allow your muscles to rest and recover. You can also use a massage gun for quicker muscle recovery.
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