Cardio exercises to get your heart pumping.So, you want to get started with cardio exercises? Great, we've highlighted eight of the most popular ones for you to choose from.

There are several benefits to cardio exercises, including:
  • Making the heart pump blood more effectively
  • Boosting metabolism
  • Maintaining mental well-being
  • Increasing lung capacity
  • Eliminating toxins from the body
The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association recommend that individuals under 65 perform moderate-intensity cardio exercise for 30 minutes a day, five times a week.
If you are embarking on a cardio exercise routine for the first time, stick to the lower end of your target heart rate and start exercising three days per week, on non-consecutive days. (Text: Judd Handler)


Jogging — Cardio exercises

Jogging is an exercise fad that hasn’t faded away since it first became popular four decades ago. Jogging remains one of the most effective and simple ways to get your heart stronger. According to one calorie-burning-by-activity calculator, a 140-pound person who jogs for 25 minutes will burn almost 200 calories. Don’t just jump out of your car and start jogging; make sure to do a warmup with some active stretching for at least 5 minutes. To challenge your heart, you may be better off implementing interval training, allowing the heart rate to spike up to the upper reaches of your target heart rate for a couple minutes and then leveling off for a recovery period.  If you’re running on hard surfaces like asphalt, splurge for some thick-soled spring-loaded shoes and replace them at least a few times a year. Get massages and roll on a foam roller to keep your muscles loose.


Hiking — Cardio exercisesFor nature lovers, a walk in the outdoors can also be a great workout for the ticker. Trails that have gradual elevation gains and losses are best. Your joints, especially your knees will be spared from serious pounding. Gradual inclines don’t spike up the heart rate too quickly. If you do have a steep descent, take short steps, angle your feet sideways and use your quadriceps (front of your thighs) to slow you down and get a muscle-building benefit. For challenging hikes, hiking poles will aid your climb and get your upper body muscles more involved. For hikes of over two hours, make sure you take a snack break—fruit and nuts are perfect—to sustain your energy.


Cycling — Cardio exercisesDepending on resistance level and speed, mere-mortal non-Lance Armstrongs can burn up to 500 calories by biking for as little as 30 minutes. Even those living in cold climates can continue to cycle during winter. Most bike stores sell studded tires, perfect for cruising through snow. If you love bike riding, you’ll need to supplement your riding with strength training, particularly core-strengthening exercises to keep your muscles along the spine strong. With all that bending over, you’ll need it. Developing a strong core will also help you recruit your core muscles to pedal rather than just using your legs.



Swimming — Cardio exercisesSwimming, by many, is considered the best cardio exercise because not only does it increase lung capacity and strengthen the heart, it also helps build your muscles. A 140-pound person who swims for 30 minutes will burn in excess of 200 calories and develop major muscle groups like latissimus dorsi(these are the upper-back “bat wing” muscles that Olympic swimmers have). A good warmup for swimmers is arm circles, brought into vogue by Michelle Obama. Reverse arm circles are very important to promote muscular balance of the deltoids (shoulders).


Cardio machines

Cardio machines — Cardio exercisesFor those that enjoy going to the gym, a cardio machine (Stairmaster, elliptical, rowing) is a great way to build heart strength. To maximize your time, pick a machine that will also give you a strength-training benefit. The elliptical has two moving poles that you alternately push and pull. Make sure you engage your core muscles to initiate movement of the poles—don’t rely only on your arms. When using the Stairmaster, make sure the resistance is high enough where your legs are getting a resistance training workout. For advanced-level Stairmaster users, add some light dumbbell presses to your routine. Make sure you keep upright posture on every machine.


Step aerobics

Step aerobics — Cardio exercisesAerobics have come a long ways since the days of Jane Fonda. Good old-fashioned step aerobics classes, though, are still a great way to get the heart pumping. Step classes usually make for a sweaty affair—good for ridding the body of toxins. Another huge benefit is improved coordination. Warning for klutzes: step aerobics may be an intimating challenge at first, as it requires stepping up on to raised platforms while alternating the leg used. Step classes, when done properly, place minimal load on the joints. Beginners should use a four-inch step; experts can go up to a foot high. To avoid maximum joint load, place the sole of your foot first on the step and don’t lock out your knees. Do no more than a handful of consecutive step ups on one side.


Power walking

Power walking — Cardio exercisesWalking by itself is often times not strenuous enough for a heart-muscle building workout, but power walking, or fast walking, as it’s also called, is perhaps the most effective and safest form of cardio exercise. Though it looks kooky to some, power walking involves a unique gait: a powerful heel to toe strike, combined with dynamic arm movement. Keep your elbows close to your sides and move your shoulder blades in a circular motion, creating energy like an engine piston. A popular power walking website suggests that walking is “the most natural and fundamental of all human conscious movements.” Power walking can have you traveling at 8 mph; regular walking keeps you moving 5 mph slower.



Kettlebells — Cardio exercisesOriginating from Soviet bloc countries where fitness gyms were virtually nonexistent, kettlebells have become very popular in the west over the last decade. A kettlebell looks like a canon ball attached to a luggage handle. The off-centered weight forces the whole body to execute a movement. Though it’s most often thought of as a strength-training tool, kettlebells workouts will boost your heart rate. The kettlebell swing is a basic exercise, which takes a few practice sessions to master. Proper form is essential for avoiding injury. There are thousands of free online kettlebell swing videos. Beginners should use an 8-kilogram kettlebell (a little less than 20 pounds) and perform 2 sets of 10-15 repetitions with both arms gripping the kettlebell. Stronger newcomers can opt for 18-kilogram kettlebells and perform one-arm swings to near failure, or, perform more advanced alternating toss swings.

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