Contributed by – Healthians Team

Cardio workouts are one of the most popular forms of workout to reduce weight and maintain overall fitness. However, most of us don’t have an in-depth understanding of what cardio is, or how it works in keeping us fit and achieving our health goals. So we decided to tackle these questions and tell you everything you want to know about cardio.

What is cardio?

The word cardio originated from the Greek word ‘Kardia’ which means heart. Cardio exercise is any exercise or physical activity that increases our heart rate. This form of exercise improves the functioning of our heart, lungs and circulatory system.

Most of us understand that to keep our muscles in working order, we need to move them. This movement makes our muscles stronger and, thus, more efficient in keeping us healthy. Since our heart, is also a muscle, it requires a workout so that it gets stronger and the capillaries deliver more oxygen to cells of our muscles. This helps our body to burn more fat during both activity and inactivity.

Benefits of cardio - Healthians

What are the benefits of cardio?

One of the first steps in building a healthy lifestyle is to include some form of cardio exercise into your routine. It is without a doubt one of the healthiest activities you’ll do in a day, almost like brushing your teeth or sleeping 8 hours. Through regular cardio, your heart and lung function better, both during exercise and at rest.

Improves heart health – First and foremost benefit of cardio exercises has to be heart health. This form of exercise is usually recommended by doctors to patients with risk of heart illnesses as it makes the heart stronger and improves its efficiency of pumping blood throughout the body. It also improves your resting heart rate, thereby reducing the stress on your most vital muscle.

Weight loss – Cardio plays an essential part in burning calories. While crash dieting can help in losing weight faster, but, it is not sustainable in the long run. With regular cardio exercise and clean eating, you will see and feel the difference in your fitness. Including some strength training to this can be even more beneficial.

Lowers blood pressure – Cardio exercises may help you manage your blood pressure symptoms. It happens because physical activity helps in lowering the blood pressure thereby reducing high blood pressure.

Reduces chronic pain – Chronic pains like back pain may be reduced with the help of low impact cardio exercise. Weight loss can further help in relieving your joint pains, as it relieves the stress on the joints carrying all the extra weight.

Improves sleep – Cardio exercise may help you sleep better. During a workout, your body expends a lot of energy and thus, needs rest to recover for the next routine. In simple words,  exercising everyday tires you out, so you are able to sleep better.

Strengths immune system – Cardio exercises improve certain antibodies in the blood called immunoglobulins which helps in strengthening the immune system. With a healthy immune system, your body’s strength to fight the illnesses will improve.

Cardio exercise - Healthians

How to choose a cardio exercise?

Once you’ve decided that you want to work out to have a healthy body, the next step is to choose a routine among the many available. A significant factor in choosing an exercise is doing something you enjoy. This will also help you maintain the habit in the long run. If you like the outdoors, you can go for a run or go cycling. And if you prefer staying indoors, you can try at-home exercises or consider joining a gym.

What you need to focus on is an exercise that makes your heart beat fast, no matter if it is indoors or outdoors. Some things to keep in mind while choosing a cardio exercise.

‘Best’ cardio – There is nothing like the “best” cardio routine. As said above, any exercise that increases your heart beat rate is good for you. There are a lot of exercises that come under the category of cardio but each one is good for a specific reason and you need to look at your own needs and lifestyle to determine what’s best for you. If you are someone who enjoys the environment and likes to spend time outdoors, running and cycling can be a good form of cardio. If on the other hand, you are more comfortable indoors in your own privacy, at-home exercises like jogging in place, jumping jacks, skipping will be a great option.

Quantity over quality – People tend to focus on the number of reps they do of an exercise. But what actually matters is the quality of those reps. For example, if you are targeting your abdomen muscles by doing crunches, you should focus on your form and posture instead of the number of crunches your perform. The better your posture will be the better will be the results. 100 crunches with incorrect form will not give much benefit. Additionally, incorrect form and poor alignment may result in injuries.

Do what you like – The most important point for adopting any workout routine is that it should not be forced. Rather, it should be something that you enjoy doing. Do not start working out because someone passed a negative comment about your weight. Work out because ‘you’ want to work out. Work out because ‘you’ want to be happy. Having a positive association with exercising is going to help you continue with it for a lifetime. If you do not like going to the gym then try at-home exercises or if you like outdoor environment then go for a run. But always do what makes you happy.

Be flexible – Don’t make a single exercise routine and follow it every day without alterations. For any workout routine to be effective, it is essential to include a variety of exercises. Another way to do this is to target a specific set of muscles every day.  If one day you have targeted your leg muscles, the second day target your back muscles. By adding a variety of exercises you maintain interest in the workout and also give enough time for each set of muscles to recuperate. Some days you can even ditch the exercise and maybe dance or play a sport. Be flexible and do whatever you like, the idea is to do a healthy activity that gets your heart pumping.

Few simple cardio exercises

Below is a list of the simplest form of cardio exercises that you can do even at your home. These exercises can be modified to increase their intensity. To do that, you can either add weights or increase the speed and reps. But whatever you do, make sure that you are comfortable while doing that and do not lose the correct form.

  • Jog in place
  • Jumping jacks
  • Skipping
  • High knee march
  • Jump squats
  • Mountain climber