Whether you need to improve your overall fitness or want to maintain and improve your current level of health, cardiovascular exercise offers a doctor-recommended solution. Modern health guidelines suggest that you get at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise three to four times per week. While many people have trouble fitting this level of exercise into their busy schedules, there are always ways to get the exercise you need. Here are some guidelines about cardiovascular exercise, cardio machines that can help you, and suggestions on how you can make cardio exercises a regular part of your health regime.
Definition of Cardiovascular Exercise
The simplest definition of cardiovascular exercise is that it is any exercise which increases your heart rate. Cardio exercises can include something as simple as walking or jogging, but it also includes sports, manual labor, and other rigorous exercise. The goal of a cardiovascular workout is to raise your heartrate and keep it raised for at least 15 to 20 minutes. After that point, the body begins to burn fat and the heart gets healthier. If you can find a cardio workout routine that you enjoy and which gets your heart pumping, you can improve your heart health, flexibility, and overall mood. Even if you consider yourself to be a healthy person overall, you should make sure to incorporate cardiovascular exercise into your activity cycle at least three to four times per week.
Benefits of Cardio Exercise
Cardio exercises provide benefits in terms of overall heart health, flexibility, and emotional well-being. First and foremost, activity which regularly pushes your heart improves the efficiency of that organ, which in turn makes the circulation of blood through your body more effective. Because the nutrients in the bloodstream are essential to proper function of all your organs, a more efficient blood circulation improves the overall function of key organs like your lungs, liver, and brain. Your improved cardiovascular health also helps remove waste elements from these organs, making them less prone to illness, disease, and organ failure.
Your organs aren’t the only thing that can benefit from good blood flow. Muscles and ligaments also benefit from a good cardiovascular routine. When you get a good workout in, you improve your overall flexibility and reduce the risk of accidentally pulling muscles during exercise. This means that any stretches, flexibility exercises, or muscle building routines become more efficient and productive. The better your cardiovascular health, the more benefits you will see from other exercises as well.
The healthier your body is, the healthier your mind becomes. Cardiovascular exercise releases endorphins into the brain that elevate your mood and keep your mind in balance. If you suffer from anxiety or depression, regular cardiovascular exercise can help reduce your symptoms and keep your emotions in balance. Those who need medication for an emotional disorder should still remain on that medication for as long as their doctor recommends, but cardiovascular exercise is always a benefit and can help your long-term mood. Even if you don’t suffer from anxiety or depression, regular exercise can put a spring in your step and a smile on your face.
Types of Cardio Exercise
The most popular kinds of cardio exercises include outdoor activities such as running, biking, rowing, and hiking. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of other exercises as well, including most popular sports. Even dancing can serve as a cardio workout, provided that the music is fast-paced enough to raise the heart rate for an extended period of time. Most cardio exercises have two things in common beyond the cardiovascular benefits. First, they involve a lot of moving around. Second, they often take place outdoors or at a gym. This works well in places where it is easy to get outside throughout the year, but most regions in the world have seasons where cold or wetness keeps people from getting outside. When this happens, people turn to specialized cardio equipment to keep them active indoors.
Popular Kinds of Cardio Equipment
The four most popular kinds of cardio equipment on the market today include stationary bikes, treadmills, elliptical machines, and rowers. Each type of equipment provides an easy way to perform cardio exercises from the comfort of your own home. Many people even combine these machines with activities such as reading or watching TV to make their cardio workout part of their daily routine. Each of these pieces of cardio equipment is described in more detail below.
Biking is one of the most productive and healthy cardio exercises you can participate in, but not everybody has the equipment or interest in going for long bike rides that cover many miles. A stationary bike provides resistance while allowing the person exercising to remain inside the home or gym. Most modern exercise bikes provide increasing resistance that can simulate going up hills or hitting a particularly steep grade. Moreover, these machines usually have heart rate monitors that can keep track of your pulse as you exercise. This allows you to know when you are at the optimal heart rate for your exercise, which is also the point where you can burn fat most efficiently.
When purchasing an exercise bike, you should consider what sort of back support you need. This equipment requires you to stay sitting for 20 to 30 minutes at a time, which can be hard on some people’s backs. Fortunately, the right bike can provide you with lumbar support to make sure that you stay comfortable during your exercise. If you plan to tone your upper body muscles, you also need to perform other exercises, as biking will work your cardiovascular system and your lower body but not your arms and shoulders.
A treadmill is a great way for both novices and those with workout experience to enjoy simple and effective cardio exercises. This equipment can also accommodate multiple different levels of physical need. Those who can perform only limited physical activity can enjoy the walking settings of the treadmill, while those who want more a vigorous workout can turn up the speed and slope of the equipment to get their heartrate up. Some treadmills physically shift to simulate increased slopes according to the workout routine you select, while others simply up the speed and resistance to simulate a steeper grade.
As with exercise bikes, treadmills often come with heart rate monitors that allow you to track your cardio health. This can be especially important for the many senior citizens and individuals with heart problems who use treadmills as a controlled way to improve their health. Also like exercise bikes, a treadmill provides only limited upper body strength and toning. However, you can mitigate this problem somewhat by running with weights in your hands or on your wrists.
Also known as cross trainers, elliptical machines provide a wide range of different exercises that can simulate running, walking, climbing stairs, and much more. They are similar in function to treadmills, but don’t put as much pressure on your joints. Elliptical machines also have handles that provide resistance to your arms, thus giving a degree of toning to your upper body while burning more calories than treadmills or exercise bikes. Ellipticals usually provide heart rate monitoring either through a chest strap or pressure grips in the handles. If you fall and lose connection with the machine, many advanced machines also stop the exercise for you.
While elliptical trainers offer a more complete exercise than treadmills, they do cost more. They also take up significantly more space. If you have a dedicated exercise room, this is no problem. On the other hand, if you want something that can easily fold up and slide under a couch or bed, you are more likely to find that option with a treadmill than an elliptical trainer.
While most people get cardiovascular through walking, running, or biking, rowing provides a more complete workout that helps strengthen and tone the whole body. Rowers use a pulley system to simulate the movements and resistance of rowing on the open water. Rowing machines provide a full-body workout not found in other pieces of cardiovascular workout equipment.
While rowers are relatively easy to stow and tone the body more extensively than many other cardio machines, they are not ideally suited to people who have bad backs or who cannot handle vigorous exercises. A rower is an excellent cardio tool for somebody who is serious about their cardio health, but there are some who would benefit more from the lighter workout offered by a treadmill, bike, or elliptical trainer.
No matter what your age or exercise history, taking the time to work a good cardiovascular routine into your life is an essential key to long-term health. If you don’t think you can fit cardio exercise into your lifestyle, you should look into one of the cardio machines described above. Each piece of equipment has its own strengths and weaknesses, and evaluating these will probably help you envision a workout routine that works for you. This is just one step toward a healthy lifestyle, but it is an important one.