What is Cardio Exercise?
Cardio, cardiovascular or aerobic exercise, is basically an activity that gets your heart rate up. It is an activity that makes you breathe deeply and rapidly as you engage large muscle groups in your body over a definite period.
In any aerobic or endurance exercise, you will naturally need more oxygen to produce sufficient energy to sustain the movement. Fitness enthusiasts like to call it “cardio,” It has several other benefits than just working your heart.
These vigorous activities maximize the amount of oxygen in your blood to make you feel more energized. They challenge your most vital organs (heart and lungs) and improve their function and performance. (1)
As most of us work from home or office, we often don’t get time for a daily run or workout in the gym. At the same time, we also don’t have to spend hours at the gym for weight loss or heart health. Instead, we can implement a few effective cardio exercises at home.
Benefits of Cardio:
The most important intent of cardio exercises is to keep your heart rate to at least 50 percent of its highest level. With every cardio session, you will notice that your respiratory and overall cardiovascular system improves significantly.
Regular aerobic exercises will help your body provide more oxygen to the cells in all the major muscle groups, increasing strength, endurance, and muscle mass.
In addition, there are also other specific benefits of doing cardio exercises:
1) Enhanced metabolic rate:
A hormone “Fibroblast growth factor” is naturally released during a cardio workout. It helps increase your metabolism by reducing your appetite and burning more calories. (2)
2) Improved heart health:
Daily engaging in cardio-based physical activities helps you build stronger cardiac muscles by achieving better blood flow in the small vessels around the heart. This controls blood pressure and lowers your stress and anxiety.
It also improves good cholesterol and decreases the chances of blood clots by reducing blood proteins and fats.
3) Reduced symptoms of arthritis:
Through continuous movement and cardio exercises, there will be significantly less pain and stiffness associated with arthritis and will improve the body’s overall flexibility. (3)
4) Boost brain health:
While you work out, the parts of the brain that control your thinking abilities and memory get bigger in size or grow in number. Also, doing it every day reduces the rate of brain shrinkage, mostly in older people.
They can even provide you with a good night’s sleep which is essential for your mental health, improving your overall cognitive function and performance.
5) Weight management:
Cardio exercises have a significant role in helping weight loss. They help burn fat by burning calories. Activities like walking, swimming, and running burn calories over time if you do them consistently.
While high-intensity cardio can burn a lot more calories per session. Fast-paced exercises such as running stairs, jumping rope, cycling and running are some effective calorie burners. Hence, they are excellent for weight control.
6) High energy and enhanced mood
While you do a cardio workout, your brain will automatically increase the secretion of endorphins (neurochemicals), which causes a feeling of euphoria. It also boosts your mood by producing dopamine and serotonin, known as good-mood hormones.
You will naturally have high energy when you are in a perfect mood. This will help you do your routine activities with extreme ease. Along with these benefits, the chemicals also help reduce stress and improve stamina, memory, and mental focus.
7 Effective Cardio Exercises:
Burpees are a killer cardio workout if you know how to do them correctly. They involve multiple exercises (jump, squat, plank) that engage your whole body to get your heart pumping.
You don’t need any equipment or ample space to do this exercise. All you need to do is alternate between 3 exercises. It is recommended to start slow and work your way as you get more comfortable with the activity.
1) Start with a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart.
2) Jump up in the air by getting down in a squat position and get back down again.
3) Place your hands on the ground and push your feet back to do a plank.
4) Do a push-up and jump your feet back into a squat.
5) Hop up, reach your arms upwards and repeat.
2) Jumping Jack
Another cardio exercise at home is the one that you can relate to as a child. Doing jumping jacks for 10 minutes straight can help you burn around 100 calories. Similar to burpees, it also exercises your whole body while increasing your heart rate.
Jumping jacks also have numerous other benefits, such as:
1) Building your hip and leg strength
2) Increasing bone density
3) Improving your heart and lung function
4) Promoting balance and coordination
1) Stand with your feet together (at ease) and arms along your torso.
2) Bend your knees slightly and make a jump by spreading your legs sideways wider than hip-width and lifting your arms over your head by touching both of your hands.
3) Jump back to your starting position (stand at ease) and repeat.
3) Jump rope
You might have memories of skipping rope as a kid. Don’t you? It was fun as we were more energetic and active during those times. Well, cheer up because you can include this in your cardio workout at home. You can do it anywhere; all you need is a jump rope.
It is one of the best cardio exercises that makes you burn around 220 calories in only 20 minutes.
1) Stand upright and hold rope handles in each of your hands.
2) Move your hands and forearms at least a foot away from your body to get a bigger arc for you to jump through.
3) The rope should hang behind you, so step over it.
4) Swing the rope over your head using your hands and wrists. Make sure not to move your arms. Keep the movement limited to your wrists.
5) As the rope comes in front of your feet, hop over it and stand on your tip toes.
6) Repeat the same movement as long as you want.
4) Lunge Jumps
As the name suggests, this exercise involves “standard lunges” and “jumping.” Lunges are one of the popular strength training exercises to sculpt and strengthen the bodies and improve athletic performance at the same time.
When you combine lunges with jumping, it gets your heart pumping and acts as a full-body workout. Hence, lunge jumps are very effective in a cardio workout.
1) Get in the lunge position with both knees bent at 90 degrees.
2) Engage your core and glutes to jump and switch to the other side (lunge) by quickly swinging your arms.
3) Keep repeating the same movement according to your convenience.
5) Mountain Climber
Mountain climber is a compound exercise that works out your entire body. This is another yet important cardio exercise that can be done regularly. As a beginner, you can start slow and keep up the pace as you advance your level.
It works multiple muscle groups at a time that targets your core, back, hip, abs, legs, glutes, and shoulders. It is also great for building endurance, stamina, and agility.
1) Start with a plank position with hands under your shoulders, touching the ground.
2) Lift your left knee toward your chest and quickly lift your right knee toward the chest as you push your left knee back to its position.
3) Keep alternating your legs back and forth to get your heart pumping.
6) Crab Toe Reaches
This low-impact exercise targets your core, glutes, hamstrings, and arms. Also, they are fun to do.
Being a cardio move, it also helps improve your core strength, agility, and metabolism, making it an excellent exercise for weight loss.
1) Start with a reverse table-top position with your knees and arms bent.
2) Lower your body so that your butt touches the ground.
3) Push yourself upwards as you touch your right toe with your left hand.
4) Get back down and do the same thing alternatively.
5) Continue doing it for about 60 seconds and rest for 15- 20 seconds.
6) Repeat 4-5 rounds in total.
Another yet, but unlike other exercises, it challenges your strength, balance, coordination, and stability. It is an effective cardiovascular move that also improves your muscle endurance and strength. It primarily focuses on your glutes, hips, and legs.
1) From a normal standing position, you need to jump slightly sideways and balance on one foot.
2) Bend forward and jump-shift your weight to the left foot as you reach your right hand down to the floor.
3) Make sure your right leg is bent behind your left leg.
4) From your current position, jump and shift your weight to the right foot as you reach your left hand to the floor.
5) Make these alternate moves for about 60 seconds.
6) Repeat 3-4 rounds in total.