What is Cardio?

Cardio is a form of exercise which increases your heart rate and gets your blood pumping. You will find that part way through you will start breathing quicker and you’ll be getting your sweat on. When you think of cardio, you’ll probably think of running. It is almost certainly the most popular form of exercise that comes to mind when someone mentions the word cardio! But in fact, the word cardio relates to your heart, so any exercise that helps raise your heart rate will be considered to be cardio.

Why Cardio?

When you constantly complete cardio, it helps push your heart and lungs to work and overtime – this makes your heart become stronger. This should in turn lower your blood pressure. If you can commit to regular cardio this will help lower your stress levels, improve your stamina and obviously help keep off extra weight and build stronger muscles. 

Cardio Exercises:

There are a number of common cardio exercises you can try if you’re looking to build up your heart strength. We’ve listed a few common ones below:

  • Walking
  • Jogging/running
  • Rowing
  • Cycling
  • Climbing stairs
  • Skipping
  • HIIT workouts (burpees, squat jumps etc)

While some of these exercises require equipment, not all of them do. So if you’re not a member of a gym, or don’t have exercise equipment at home, perhaps try the more straightforward exercises, like walking, jogging and running. 

Other Benefits of Cardio:

  1. Helps With Your Sleep – Studies have shown that those who keep to a regular exercise routine can help with sleep problems.
  2. Strengthen Your Immune System – Results have shown that cardio and exercise increase specific antibodies in your blood (immunoglobulins). This then strengthens the immune system.
  3. Reduce Chronic Pain – Many sufferers of back pain have stated that low impact exercise (walking or swimming) helps with their endurance and dropping weight. This can in turn further relieve pain.
  4. Drop the Weight and Keep it Off – There have been studies that show exercising four or five times a week, aiming to burn 500 calories, can significantly help people to lose weight and maintain the loss. 
  5. Helps Manage Your Diabetes – For individuals suffering from diabetes, cardio can help manage your condition. When you exercise, you increase the utilization of glucose in your muscles. This can then result in you having an increased control of your blood sugars and ensure you have less blood sugar swings. 

How to Start:

Start off by setting yourself a realistic goal based on your current fitness level. For example, if you are new to running then it would be unwise to say you are going to run 5km in 20 minutes. A more realistic target would be aiming to complete it in 40 – 45 minutes. Once you achieve your initial goal, aim to hit this a few times before you pick your next target. When you look to improve your target each time, you will begin to improve your overall fitness and health.

So, whether you decide to walk for half an hour, swim 100 laps of your local pool or run for 10 miles, cardio will not only help improve your health but also help improve your mindset. 

Cardio Workouts at Home

While it can be nice to get out of the house and do some cardio, this is not always possible. Or it might just be weather dependent! There are loads of workouts you can do from home though, which can help you lose weight and improve your mental wellbeing. We’ve outlined three exercises for beginners, intermediates and more advanced athletes below:

Cardio for Beginners 

  1. Jumping Jacks

You’ve probably tried jumping jacks before, even if it was just during P.E. at school. You begin in a standing position, with your arms down by your sides. You then raise your arms wide above your head, while jumping outwards. Your body will at this point resemble an ‘X’. You should then jump back into your starting position and repeat. 

  1. Jog on the Spot

This is as simple as it sounds! Just bounce on one foot to the other, raising your knees high, and swinging your arms from side to side. You may be surprised by how quickly this activity can raise your heart rate!

  1. Arm Circles

You can perform arm circles while sitting or standing, though it may be easier to do the latter! Simply rotate your arms in a circular motion, rather like swimming the backstroke or butterfly. Try and rotate your arms both clockwise and anticlockwise.

Cardio for Intermediates

  1. Climbing Stairs

Going up and down the stairs, especially if you take them two at a time, can be a great cardiovascular exercise. You can also increase your speed to really challenge yourself! And if you don’t have stairs in your property, you can buy an aerobic step, which you can step up and down onto. 

  1. Squat Jumps

With a squat jump, you bend your knees into a squat position, then jump into the air, extending your hips until your body is straight. Once you land back on the balls of your feet, you would go back into a squat, and repeat the exercise. To increase the difficulty, you can try out different arm movements.

  1. Skipping Rope

You may have heard that boxers use skipping as a technique to keep fit – it’s an excellent cardio exercise to perform if you have a rope and a bit of floor space! Simply skip in place, perhaps alternating between jumping on both feet and jumping landing on one foot then the other.  

Advanced Cardio 

  1. Mountain Climbers 

Mountain climbers can work the entire lower half of your body. Begin in a push up position, with your arms straight and your toes touching the floor. You then bring one knee forward, up towards your chest, bring it back down to the floor, and repeat with the other leg. 

  1. Bear Crawl

To perform a bear crawl, first get into a push up position. Then, while keeping your knees bent and off the floor, crawl forward by alternating your leg and arm movements. Make sure you keep your abs supported and your torso level. 

  1. Burpees

Like the above exercises, you start a burpee in a push up position. Keeping your arms straight, bounce on the balls of your feet to bring both knees up to your chest so you’re in a squat position with your hands still on the floor. Jump out of the squat, raising your arms in the air. You’ll then reverse this process, by returning to a squat, putting your hands back on the ground, and jumping backwards to get back into a push up position. You will then repeat this exercise to really get your heart pumping.

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