Cardio exercises come in many forms. Also called aerobic exercise, it generally means doing something to elevate your heart rate and breathing
over a prolonged period of time.
This can mean jogging, walking, cycling, swimming, elliptical exercise machines, aerobic classes or any of the current popular workout routines that combine full body exercises in a non-stop, fast pace.
Cardio exercises can be customized to you and what you are comfortable with. Here you will find the answers to What Kind, How Much, When and Why regarding cardio exercises, and the best cardio workout tips.
What, When and How Much should you do?!? Keep reading and you will find the answers....
Myth: “I’m overweight. I don’t want to lift weights and get big muscles. I’ll just do cardio”.
Truth:Doing just cardio will definitely help you lose weight, but without balancing out your weight loss program with resistance training, you will also lose muscle...
and if you lose muscle your metabolism will SLOW DOWN, and it will be HARDER and HARDER for you to keep the weight off! Plus, doing cardio alone will not give you that toned, fit appearance you may be trying to get.
I could go on and on about how cardio exercises improve your health by leaps and bounds…But most people are more interested in HOW CAN CARDIO HELP ME LOSE WEIGHT.
So, since losing weight is what this site is about, that’s what I’ll focus on. (But just know that you are reaping some major health benefits, other than shedding fat).
"What kind of cardio exercises should I do?"
Whatever kind you WILL do! Any activity that gets your heart pumping…
If you feel like you can run, then run.
If you want to walk or hike, then do it.
If you like swimming or aerobic classes or treadmills or elliptical machines…then DO IT!
It can be any combination of these as well. As long as your heart is beating faster and you are breathing harder, it doesn’t matter what you do. If an aerobics class at the gym just isn’t your cup of tea, then check out these options…
Running, walking, hiking, cycling, boxing, martial arts, rowing (real or fake), treadmills, stair climbers, elliptical exercise machines, swimming, circuit training, racquetball, cross country skiing and just about any of the programs sold on infomercials like P90X, Insanity, etc. Most people need variety so they do not get bored – so pick and choose!
"How often should I do cardio exercises?"
To be effective, you should aim for 20-30 minutes at least 3 times a week. But anything is better than nothing!
How hard should I push myself during cardio exercise?
That depends on your current level of fitness.
Assuming you have been medically cleared by your doctor to exercise, then you should ease into the appropriate level of exertion.
Aerobic means “with oxygen”. So for example, if you decide to try jogging, then jog at an intensity where you can carry on a conversation….of course if you are by yourself then that may look a little weird…so try singing your favorite song. If you can talk or sing without too much effort, then you are in the right zone.
If you don’t want to be seen on the treadmill at your gym, or running through your neighborhood talking to yourself or singing, then you can measure your heart rate. (That might be a better idea).
You can measure your heart rate by placing your first and second fingers on the inside of your wrist or on your carotid artery on your neck.
You should aim for 60-80% of your maximum heart rate. So after you have been jogging for a few minutes, simply stop and quickly take your pulse by counting for 15 seconds and then multiply by 4.
Figuring out your target heart rate: To get a general range, subtract your age from 220. That gives you your maximum HR. Multiply that by .6 to get the low end and .8 to get the high end. Of course, the higher in that range you are the more fat you will be burning for energy!
Once you reach your target heart rate, notice how your breathing feels. After some practice, you will soon be able to maintain your THR by the way you “feel” instead of taking your pulse.
Interval Training: How do you eat an elephant? (My question is WHY would you WANT to eat an elephant??)
If you are not able to keep up to this pace in the beginning, then build up to it. Do your chosen activity for a few minutes, then slow it down for a minute or two and then go again.
As you progress, try to go for longer periods of time, and take shorter, less frequent rest breaks. (Interval Training can also be used for experienced folks to push themselves and shake up their routine).
"When should I do cardio exercise?"
Whenever you CAN do it. The best option may not be an answer you like…Do your workout first thing in the morning.
This does three important things: 1) It gets it out of the way for the rest of the day; 2) Most research shows that more fat is used for energy on an empty stomach; and 3) You get the benefit of having an elevated metabolism for most of the day!
It will be hard getting up, but do it and see how you good you feel for the rest of the day. Make it easier by setting out your workout clothes and shoes the night before.
How to use cardio in your weight loss plan…
Elevating your heart rate to your target heart rate three or more times a week is the traditional method to reap the rewards.
Here are 6 suggestions. Pick what works best for you!
1) Alternate days of cardio with your weight training days. For example, if you weight train Monday, Wednesday and Friday, then do cardio on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Benefits: You are doing something physical just about every day of the week. This will keep your metabolism humming along.
Down side: Many people have such busy schedules, that “things come up” and they end up skipping their workouts. So if you have a hectic, unpredictable lifestyle, you might want to try another option.
2) Do cardio and weight training on the same day. Use a 10-30 minute cardio session as warm up for your resistance training. Your muscles have to be warmed up before working out anyway, right?
3) You can also split your cardio in HALF….do half before the workout as a warm up, and do the other half as a cool down after your workout.
This will help flush out some of the lactic acid in your muscles from an intense session so you will not be as sore.
(To make it a true cool down, reduce the intensity of the last few minutes, so by the time you are finished your heart rate is almost back to normal).
4) Alternate cardio and weight training DURING the workout. Warm up for 5 minutes, do a few sets of an exercise, and then do 5-10 minutes of cardio again. Repeat with another exercise, then do 5-10 minutes of cardio again!
Circuit training allows you to kill 3 birds with 1 stone: You are stimulating your muscles while you are keeping your heart rate in a cardio zone, and you are SAVING time!
When you are ready to take it to the next level…
6)…High intensity interval training. This means taking a typical 20-30 minute session and squeezing it into 10-15 minutes.
To do that, you need to crank up the volume! Example: after a warm up, jog for 1 minute, sprint for 10 seconds and repeat. After 5-10 minutes of this, cool down with a jog then a walk.
example… Warm up for 4 minutes. Sprint for 20 seconds, jog for 10
seconds. Do that for just 4 minutes, then cool down for 4 minutes.
That’s just 12 minutes!This method is called the Tabata method, and has become very popular over the last few years because it is so effective.
There’s many variations of high intensity interval training – the key is really pushing your heart rate into the anaerobic zone, and then backing down into the aerobic zone.
Sprinkle one or two high intensity intervals into your week to break monotony and help increase your anaerobic threshold.
If done correctly, you will be huffing and puffing using high intensity intervals – you will be wishing you were doing 30 minutes of steady cardio instead of 12 minutes at this pace!
Cardio exercise is a must-have component for a complete weight loss program. Not only will you burn more calories on a daily basis, but you will begin to have more energy, you will start losing fat, and you will be strengthening the most important muscle in your body: your heart.
Cardio exercises come in many varieties. Which one works for you? All you have to do is pick one you like and get moving!