Cardiovascular exercise increases your heart rate and breathing. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that most adults get 30 minutes of moderate cardio exercise, 20 minutes of intense cardio exercise or a combination of moderate and intense cardio exercise five or more days each week, in addition to two to three days of resistance exercise. Engaging in different types of cardio reduces boredom and offers an effective fitness program.
Cardio increases your blood flow, supplies valuable nutrients to your body, reduces your risk of heart disease and osteoporosis, improves your cholesterol level and may help you shed those unwanted pounds. Intense cardio burns more calories than exercising at a moderate rate and burns fat more efficiently. If you vary the intensity of your cardio workout, it may work the body more efficiently and burn more fat. For example, run as hard as you can for up to 60 seconds, slow down to a brisk walk for two minutes and then repeat this pattern three or more times.
Swimming, water aerobics and working out on an elliptical machine are examples of no-impact cardio exercises. This means they don’t put stress on your spine or joints. Exercising in water combines cardio with resistance to give you an effective full-body workout. An elliptical machine workout also exercises your upper and lower body with resistance. Resistance strengthens your muscles, so you get twice the benefit during your workout. Most people can engage in no-impact cardio with few restrictions.
Walking, jumping on a mini trampoline, biking, dancing, skating and rowing are examples of low-impact cardio exercise. Fitness professionals recommend low-impact cardio for most individuals, but your doctor may recommend restrictions if you have certain health conditions, joint damage or a recent injury. Most low-impact cardio is moderate to low intensity, so you need to exercise 30 minutes or more per day. If you can’t carve out a 30-minute or longer exercise window, break your exercise into 10- to 15-minute intervals two or more times per day. For example, you might walk for 10 minutes on your lunch hour and then bike for 20 minutes when you get home or exercise at the gym before or after work.
Running, jumping rope, tennis, racquetball and aerobic dancing that includes jumping are high-impact cardio. If you have back pain, mobility issues, or knee or hip problems, you should probably avoid high-impact cardio exercise. If you do engage in high-impact exercise, always warm up first.
Consult your doctor before beginning a cardio workout if you have a medical condition or have been inactive. Spend five to 15 minutes in a pre-exercise warm-up and stretch and five to 10 minutes cooling down after exercise. Stop exercising and see your doctor if you become dizzy or nauseous, if you experience sudden pain or if you faint. It’s important to stay well-hydrated during your exercise routine. If you are just starting to exercise, start slow and gradually increase your intensity and duration.
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