10 Best Cardio Activities

The best kinds of cardiovascular activities.

Maintaining your cardiovascular fitness is one of the most important things you can do to maintain your health, longevity and overall mood. Exercise has been proven to alleviate symptoms of depression and can even help curb an excessive appetite. Weight training and yoga are great for your body, but you need to include cardiovascular workouts into your exercise routine to keep your heart healthy.

To get the most out of your cardiovascular workout, determine your target heart rate. You can do so by using a heart rate calculator such as the one here (http://exercise.about.com/cs/fitnesstools/l/bl_THR.htm). Once you have elevated your heart rate to your target level, you will want to be sure to keep it at that level for a minimum of 10 minutes.

There are several different activities you can choose from to raise your heart rate sufficiently. Below are the ten best exercises you can engage in.


Top Choices for Beginners:

Walking:

Average calories burned: 360/hour when walking at 4.25 miles per hour

Walking is an excellent way for people to begin their journey into cardiovascular fitness. When the weather outside is mild, it can be extremely enjoyable to put on your headphones and take a stroll through your neighborhood.

For many beginners, walking at a rate of about 3.0 miles per hour is a good starting point. If you work your way up to at least 4.0 miles per hour or spend a good portion of your walk going up hills, you can get your heart rate up sufficiently.

On days that the weather is not cooperative, you can do your walking on a treadmill. While the scenery is not as interesting, a treadmill will lower the impact on your joints as you step and will allow you to monitor your rate of speed.

Step Aerobics:

Average calories burned: 375/hour at a leisurely pace, or 600/hour with a high-intensity session

Step aerobics was very popular in the 80s and 90s but has since tapered off a bit. However, this is one of the best ways for beginners to transition from couch potatoes to fitness stars in the privacy of the home. You can use a step aerobics video to get the hang of the different steps and can then improvise your own workout while watching TV. Using a stepper is a quiet activity that requires very little room in your home.

If you spend just a half-hour a day slowly stepping while watching your favorite sitcom, you could burn an extra 1,300 calories a week and lose two pounds a month. Doing this activity faster, more intensely or for longer periods of time will have an even greater impact.

Elliptical Trainers:

Average calories burned: 425/hour when moving at a slow, comfortable pace or 600/hour at a brisk pace

Elliptical trainers are a great choice for beginners, as you can start off slow and work your way up to expert fitness levels all on the same machine. Elliptical trainers are some of the most popular cardio-fitness machines at the gym with good reason. These machines work both your upper and lower body while providing a low-impact workout. You can vary your workout by going forward or backward on them. Most people find these machines intuitive to use and easy to stay on for long periods of time.


Top Choices for People on a Budget:

Running:

Average calories burned: 600/hour running at 5.2 mph

Running is one of the most popular cardiovascular workouts for people on a budget. When the weather cooperates, your neighborhood can provide you with diverse and interesting courses to run, or, you can choose to run on a treadmill at your local gym or in your own home. Many people who run long distances feel what they describe as a “runner’s high” when they no longer feel the effort they are putting into the workout and just enjoy the run. One disadvantage to running is that it can be hard on your knees and other joints. You can alleviate some of this by wearing good running shoes and by running lower-impact surfaces like a treadmill or track.

Biking:

Calories burned: 500 – 1000/hour, depending on speed and surface incline

Biking is a great workout that can be enjoyed during most seasons of the year. Aside from the initial investment made in the purchase of a bike and a helmet, this is an activity that is great for people on a budget. Many people find it easy to incorporate biking into daily life. For some, biking to work is a viable option while others find they can use bikes for running errands. In addition to getting a great workout, you can also save money on fuel costs.

Jumping Rope:

Average calories burned: 660/hour

While jumping rope permits you to burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time, very few people can jump rope longer than about 15 minutes at a time. Jump ropes are inexpensive and provide an alternative exercise that you can fit in between other workout routines such as stretching, weight training or crunches. It is a great way to get your heart rate up quickly and keep it up for several minutes. A jump-rope is a very inexpensive fitness tool.


Top Choices for High Calorie Burning:

Cross-Country Skiing:

Average calories burned: 660/hour

Cross-country skiing is an enjoyable winter activity that has the added advantage of providing a high-intensity full-body workout. The same workout you can get while on skis can also be achieved by using a ski machine, though many find this activity less appealing than the real thing.

Swimming:

Average calories burned: 800/hour doing the breast stroke at fast pace

Swimming is probably the best cardiovascular activity you can try. It is extremely easy on your joints, and the water provides excellent resistance that allows you to tone your muscles. Swimming provides a full-body workout and keeps you cool and refreshed while working out. While many gyms do not include lap pools, you can usually get a very inexpensive membership at your local high-school or YMCA that will allow you to swim year-round in the indoor pool.

Kickboxing:

Average calories burned: Up to 750/hour during an intense workout

Kickboxing provides more than just an excellent workout; many people report that it is an extremely effective stress-reliever. You can opt to do this activity at home using a kickboxing video or you can enroll in a kickboxing class that will keep you motivated while providing the added benefit of a social activity. Not only does this activity burn a lot of calories, it warms and stretches your muscles and can even provide you with some self-defense training.

Rowing:

Average calories burned: 660/hour

Rowing machines provide a surprisingly good full-body workout. However, many people tend to avoid using them at the gym. Perhaps this is because they are uncertain of how exactly to use them. If you have been eying the rowing machine lately, it may be a very good idea to ask a staff member at the gym how to use it properly. You will be glad you did. The machines work and stretch the muscles in your body while raising your heart rate to target levels quickly. The workout is deceptively intense, so it may be a good idea to start out using the machine for only 10 to 15 minutes and then working your way up.


Start Working Out Today

Maintaining your cardio fitness will improve your health and enable you to live a longer, fuller life. It may also earn you lower rates on your health and life insurance policies. So, stop sitting there are your computer reading this article, and get up and exercise. You’ll be glad you did.