Your Complete Guide To Cardio Exercises: Learn What is Cardio and the Best Cardiovascular Exercises

Key Takeaways

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 mins of moderate-intensity or 75 mins of vigorous-intensity cardiovascular exercise weekly.

Cardio exercise involves aerobic metabolism, utilizing oxygen to generate energy for sustained physical activities.

Athletes use three training methods: slow to moderate-intensity distance training, moderate to high-intensity interval training, and high-intensity continuous exercise.

The blog recommends 12 cardio exercises categorized for beginners, intermediate, and advanced levels.

Cardiovascular training strengthens the heart, improves stamina, enhances sleep, and reduces lifestyle diseases.


High-intensity interval training (HIIT) provides maximizing cardiovascular benefits.

Introduction

Cardiovascular exercises help you prevent lifestyle diseases like hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity weekly.

You can also opt for 75 minutes of low-intensity exercise weekly to maintain peak heart health. (If you do more, even better. It will give you extra health benefits).

You can do cardiovascular workouts at home with minimal equipment. Cardiovascular exercises contribute to improved mood, enhanced brain function, and better sleep.

At Aware, we believe in being holistic about your health knowledge. This includes knowing the 'What, Why, and How' of anything you do. Hence, let's first understand what are cardiovascular exercises.

What is cardio/cardiovascular exercise?

Cardio exercise/ endurance exercise/ cardiovascular exercise is any exercise that involves aerobic metabolism. The body generates energy in the presence of oxygen through aerobic metabolism. It utilizes carbohydrates and fats to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP) for sustained physical activities.

Cardio exercises:

  • Involve large muscle groups of the body (especially legs).
  • Are rhythmic and continuous.
  • Challenge your lungs and heart to work harder.

Cardio exercise increases heart rate and deepens breathing to increase the oxygen supply. Hence, you feel more energized after performing cardio exercises.

Engaging in a variety of sports can enhance cardiovascular fitness. Here are some cardiovascular exercise examples:

Pure Aerobic Activities

  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Running
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Aerobics
  • Rowing
  • Stair climbing
  • Hiking
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Dancing

Training Methods for Cardiovascular Fitness Improvement

Athletes use three training methods to enhance cardiovascular fitness:

Slow to Moderate-Intensity Distance Training
  • Involves sustained, steady-paced activities.
  • Example: Long-distance walking or cycling.
Moderate to High-Intensity Interval Training
  • Alternate between quick bursts of vigorous exercise and rest / low-intensity exercise periods.
  • Example: Sprinting followed by walking or jogging intervals.
High-Intensity Continuous Exercise
  • Involves sustained, vigorous activity without intervals.
  • Example: Intense continuous running.

Which are the best cardiovascular exercises at home?

We recommend 12 cardio workout exercises at home. This list will be helpful if you are looking for cardio exercise for weight loss. We have split these healthy activities into three groups according to their intensity levels. Let's start with cardiovascular exercises for beginners.

Beginner

1. Walking in a place

Walking in place at home is an excellent cardiovascular exercise. Ensure proper form by maintaining an upright posture. Swing your arms naturally, and lift your knees with each step for optimal walking.

2. Air squats

A woman doing air squats as cardio exercise at home

Air squats target thighs, hamstrings, quadriceps, and glutes, engaging core muscles for improved balance. Execute by keeping feet shoulder-width apart. Squat with hips moving down and back, maintaining the lumbar curve. Ensure heels stay flat on the floor with hips descending lower than the knees in air squats.

3. Trunk Rotation

The trunk rotation exercise engages the abdominal muscles and challenges the cardiovascular system. Maintain proper form with elbows to the sides for effective performance.

4. Dancing to Music

If you want to make exercising even more fun, then put on some music and dance. Dancing is an excellent cardio exercise that involves various body muscles. There are no rules for dancing; dance how you like and enjoy the process.

Intermediate

1. Jumping Jacks

A woman doing jumping jacks during her cardio workout

Incorporate jumping jacks for a full-body workout. Begin with legs together and arms at the sides. Jump, spread your legs, and lift your arms overhead. Return to the starting position for repetitions.

2. Standing alternating toe touches

Woman doing standing alternating toe touches as part of her cardio

This full-body cardio move engages your arms, core, and legs. Begin with feet shoulder-width apart, arms at your sides, and engage your core. Lift one leg while raising the opposite arm, reaching toward your toes—alternate sides for a complete exercise routine.

3. Stair climbs

Incorporate stairs into your workout routine by repeatedly ascending and descending. Mount two stairs at a time to intensify the challenge and elevate the pace to a running speed.

4. Jogging in a place

Jogging in place efficiently elevates the heart rate. Stand upright, lift your knees with each step, and maintain a steady pace.

Advanced

1. Rotational jacks

An image of a man doing rotational jacks as part of his cardiovascular workout

Rotational jacks blend jumps, squats, and torso twists for an effective full-body workout. Begin with feet and hands together. Jump into a squat while twisting your waist, alternate reaching hands up and down. Then, jump back to the starting position and repeat the sequence.

2. Mountain Climbers

A man performing mountain climbers exercise to intensify this cardio workout

Mountain climbers are an advanced full-body workout focusing on the lower body. Begin in a pushup position, with one leg extended back and the other near the chest. Swiftly switch leg positions while keeping hands on the ground and hips level. Repeat this dynamic movement for a comprehensive workout.

3. Burpees

A woman doing burpes in her workout routine

Burpees, an intense full-body exercise, elevate the heart rate. Begin in a pushup position, bringing your knees into the chest. Jump out to a squat, raise your hands, land back in a squat, and return to the starting position.

4. Rope jumps

Jumping rope enhances cardio strength, coordination, and calorie burning. Stand with the rope behind you, swing it over your head, and jump over it with both feet. Keep a steady rhythm and flex your core for a full-body workout.

Which of the above is the best exercise for cardiovascular health?

If you ask us, the best exercise is the one you like to do and will continue to do in the long term.

Benefits of cardiovascular training

Good cardiovascular exercises provide many benefits that help you live longer and healthier. Some of the benefits of cardiovascular workouts are as follows.

  1. Makes heart stronger: Regular exercise strengthens your heart and reduces heart attack and stroke risk. A good heart means a longer life.
  2. Improves stamina: Cardio exercises enhance your stamina, allowing you to perform longer with more energy.
  3. Enhances sleep: If you face trouble falling asleep at night, exercising may help you fall asleep faster. Exercise also improves your sleep quality, helping you wake up fresher.
  4. Reduces risk of lifestyle diseases: Regular exercising enhances insulin sensitivity, blood cholesterol, and fat. This reduces your chances of developing Diabetes, High Cholesterol, and Hypertension.
  5. Improves lung health: Regular exercise improves lung capacity to fulfill the body's increased oxygen demand.
  6. Improves brain function: Carcio exercise can improve concentration, memory, and decision-making skills.
  7. Reduces stress: Engaging in cardio exercises releases endorphins. Endorphins enhance mood and reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.
  8. Strengthens your immune system: When you regularly exercise, you will fall sick less, as cardio boosts your immune system.
  9. Affordable: You can do most aerobic exercises without any equipment. You don't need significant financial investment like a gym membership to perform cardio.
  10. Makes your arteries healthier: The effect of exercise on circulatory system is quite favorable. Cardio exercise improves arterial health by enhancing blood flow and elasticity and reducing plaque.

How long should you work out?

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends performing at least 30 mins of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise at least 5 times weekly. You can also opt for 20 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio exercises 3 times a week.

These are the minimum recommendations. If you want to exercise more, you can increase the time or intensity for added benefits. Make sure to listen to your body and grow your exercise time sustainably.

How should you do cardiovascular exercise to get the most from it?

You can perform High-intensity interval training.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) involves rotating between brief bursts of vigorous exercise and periods of rest or lower-intensity exercise. This approach maximizes cardiovascular benefits, such as improved endurance and fat burning.

Examples: Sprinting for 30 seconds, resting for 30 seconds, or cycling at maximum effort for one minute, then slowing down for one minute.

Also read: 3 Powerful Exercises for Healthy Heart in 2024

Conclusion

Cardiovascular exercises are crucial for your heart and well-being. Whether starting with simple exercises or tackling advanced routines, the key is consistency.

If you want to improve your heart health, Aware has you covered. The Aware Health Rewards App helps you track activities, get a heart score, and receive personalized insights. Make Aware your companion on this journey towards a healthier lifestyle. Download the app today and start a heart-healthy routine.

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