The human heart is a muscle which gets stronger and healthier if one leads an active life. Active life involves engaging in some form of physical workout or exercise, which helps improve heart health and also maintain a healthy weight. A very effective form of physical exercise is cardio. Cardio, the acronym for cardiovascular exercises help to raise the heart rate and breathing rate into the moderate or vigorous-intensity level for 10 minutes or more.
Cardio exercises are designed to focus on balancing three important factors for effectiveness and safety – frequency, intensity and duration. Common forms of cardio exercises include brisk walking, running, cycling, swimming, rowing, cross-country skiing, etc. In the gym, cardio exercises include treadmill, stationary cycles, elliptical trainer, stepping machine, rowing machine and ski trainer. Exercises such as lifting weights, using weight machines, resistance forms, core workouts, etc. are typically to build the strength of the body and hence, do not qualify as cardio exercises.
Cardio exercises are very effective in maintaining a healthy heart, as well as a healthy weight. 10 of the best and most effective cardio exercises include:
Jumping Rope: Jumping rope, also known as skipping is a very good form of cardio exercise. This involves turning a rope with handles repeatedly and jumping over the rope. It is an excellent and very effective form of cardio workout and helps to shed more than 220 calories in a mere 20 minutes. Jump ropes are very affordable in price and also easily available. Another advantage of the exercise form is that it can be done anywhere and anytime; moreover, these are highly portable, require no special training and are fun to do. All one needs is a good pair of sports shoes, a skipping rope and some space for practice. Practising 10-30 seconds of jumping along with marching in place for beginners is very good. While for intermediate or advanced level, 30-60 seconds of jumping paired with marching, jogging, squats, lunges, push-ups, and dips – is very useful.
Jumping Jacks: Jumping jack involves jumping with feet wide open, while simultaneously raising the arms over the head and then back again. This form of cardio exercise helps to immediately burn 100 calories in 10 minutes. It does not require any special equipment or exercise tool and can be performed with a simple pair of shoes and a healthy heart. However, these may strain the joints and hence, should be taken up only if these do not cause any pain or discomfort. Combining 30-60 seconds of jumping jacks with other cardio exercises such as squats, pushups, dips etc. for 10-30 seconds each is very helpful.
Jog-in-a-place: Jogging in a stationary position by lifting the arms an inch or two above the ground and hopping from foot to foot while engaging the arms – is a great cardio workout. This simple and easily accessible form pushes the heart rate up and is also a great warm-up exercise for other intense cardio workouts. Undertaking 30-60 seconds of jogging in a place can work wonders for the heart and also promote weight loss. It is best combined with other cardio exercises such as lunges, pushups, squats, etc.
Burpees: Burpees are a fun and often a very strenuous form of cardio workout. This involves squatting on the floor, then jumping into a plank position and then finally jumping back in and standing up ultimately. The entire process completed once is one burpee count. This is a very effective cardio workout and helps a person burn more than 100 calories in less than 10 minutes. Though strenuous, burpees can be easily accommodated slowly (30-60 seconds) into the workout schedule since their impact is amazing both on the heart and the body weight.
Mountain climbers: Mountain climbers involve running the knee in and out while keeping the core engaged and the back straight, the typical push-up position. Mountain climbers’ help to raise the heart rate, while also allow the body to build strength and endurance of the core. A person must have strong and flexible wrists for this cardio workout since it can cause stress to the arms, wrists, and shoulders. For best results, combine mountain climbers with burpees, push-ups, and planks over a 10-minute workout session.
Squat Jumps: Squat jumps are very easy and also a very effective cardio exercise, which helps to improve the heart and also lose the extra weight. This involves jumping as high as possible from a squat position and then landing back into a squat form. It is important to remember to use the whole foot to jump and not strain the toes while also landing softly. These are a type of plyometric exercise which helps raise the heart rate, burn calories and also increase the power in the legs. However, this is a very high impact and high-intensity work form and one must undertake this only with strong joints and a fit heart.
Kickboxing: A famous sport and also a very useful exercise for the heart and weight, kickboxing is supremely easy and can be taken up anywhere. It involves a combination of punching and kicking against a bag, the air or even a person (can be risky in some cases). A simple 30-60 seconds of workout spread over 10 minutes can help a person burn more than 100 calories.
Staircases: Climbing the stairs might seem like an everyday task but is a great form of cardio exercise. It also helps build the overall body strength of a person. For staircases which are more than six stairs long, 1-2 laps combined with other cardio exercises such as jumping rope, jogging in a place, jumping jacks, etc. can be taken up. Moreover, in another form, a step from the staircase can be used for push-ups, lunges, dips, step-ups, squats and other forms of workouts.
Speed Skater Lunge: Speed skater lunges in which one leg is bent and put out, while the other is straight and stretched – is a very good cardio exercise. The exercise is intense and helps to burn fat quickly while also boosting overall body metabolism. It works the gluteal muscles, legs and postural assisters in a very efficient way, which helps to improve overall health.
Running, Walking and Playing: Jogging, running, brisk walking or simply playing outdoor games such as footballs, hockey, etc. can help improve health condition and also shed some weight. It is also a splash of fresh air for the body, which helps to lighten the mood and increases the energy of the body. However, the form of any exercise should be done at a consistent speed and flow.