Cardio workouts are the ones that most people enjoy the least because they can sometimes feel like work. It can be boring, repetitious, and difficult to get through a full workout. It is much more fun to jump on your bike or lift weights and get the instant gratification and endorphin rush that those exercises provide. Even though these workouts are not the most fun, they can be the most beneficial to your overall health, especially your cardiovascular health.
What is A Cardio Workout?
This type of exercise is often misunderstood as ‘any activity that raises your heart rate’. Although there is some truth to that statement it is not entirely accurate. For an exercise or activity to truly be considered cardio it must meet these 2 important criteria:
- It must improve the functionality of the lungs, heart, and circulatory system
- It must elevate your breathing rate and heart rate
If an exercise meets those 2 criteria, it is truly considered cardio. Not all exercise that raises your heart rate is true cardio.
What is the Difference Between Cardio and Aerobic Exercise?
Aerobic exercise is a form of cardio, but there are many more than just this one. Aerobic exercise literally means ‘exercise with oxygen’.
One of the most popular forms of aerobic exercise is jumping rope. This will increase your heart rate and breathing, strengthening your lungs and heart. It can be an intense workout with many health benefits.
Running in place or jogging are both considered aerobic exercises. These will get you breathing hard and working your lungs and heart at the same time strengthening your legs, back and core.
What is Anaerobic Exercise & Is it Different Than Cardio?
Anaerobic routines are exercises that use short bursts of strength and effort for a truly short period of time, where aerobic and cardio exercises are less energy but over longer periods of time. You will be more tired after cardio than anaerobic.
The other key difference between the two is that aerobic exercise will use stored energy for the quick burst and break down glucose fast.
Examples of Anaerobic Exercises
What is the Purpose of Cardio Exercise?
Cardio will burn calories which helps you lose weight and being a healthy weight will help you avoid many issues like diabetes. It will help you control your appetite and boost your mood. People also report sleeping much better after a good workout. Moving your body during an aerobic workout will help relieve joint pain as well. The purpose of cardio is to improve your heart, lung, and cardiovascular function which in turn improves your overall health and sense of well-being. Put simply, cardio will make you live longer and feel better while you are alive. As part of a balanced workout regimen and diet, cardio is the key to a healthy body.
Best at Home Cardio Exercises with Equipment
Rowing with a Rowing Machine
Rowing machines can get expensive, but they provide a unique workout that is hard to duplicate on other home equipment. To have an effective rowing workout you need to be aware of some common mistakes.
- Do not grab the oar as hard as you can, just hold it normally. If you are gripping it too hard your hands will not get the blood they need and they will get tired too fast.
- Keep the back straight. Hunching over while rowing is way too common and can cause back injuries. It may feel unnatural to keep your back perfectly straight, but it is the correct way to row.
- Keep your legs together. Do not open your legs while you are pushing back on the seat. This feels good to do because it releases some of the tension on your legs but keeping them straight is how you get the best workout.
- Keep your arms down low. Many people who row on machines tend to lift their arms up way too high. This will use more energy and may eventually lead to you smacking yourself in the chin or throat with the oar.
Cycling on a Recumbent or Stationary Bike
Stationary or recumbent bikes are some of the most common at-home cardio equipment. These can be purchased for under a hundred bucks for a cheap one, and they provide a good cardio workout without any high impact exercises.
These bikes are favorites of health enthusiasts for good reason, the workouts are fun and it is not cheap to get a bike and get started!
Running on Treadmills
Ah, the dreadmill! These are loved and hated by millions around the world. Treadmills can provide a very intense calorie-burning, heart-pumping cardio experience. You can find treadmills for fairly cheap these days, and they are excellent tools especially if you are a serious runner. Thinking about learning how to run? Look at our guide on how to start running right here!
Exercising on an Elliptical
Elliptical machines provide a low impact full-body workout that will work your lungs. These specialize in providing cardio and strength training for your entire body but can be used in different ways to focus on specific areas you need to work on. The pedals can go backward which works with different leg muscles than normal forward motion does. The handles on an elliptical will work your arms and upper body much like cross country skiing can do.
Ellipticals are similar to treadmills but they are very different machines. Both are cardio-focused, but there are vast differences explained in detail right here on our guide ‘Treadmills VS Ellipticals’.
Best Home Cardio Workouts Without Equipment
You either love or you hate burpees. The cool thing about burpees is they are good for cardio as well as strength training. If you are not familiar with how to do a burpee, here you go:
From the standing position put your hands on the ground directly in front of your feet. Move your feet back in a jumping motion then bring them back to near your hands and jump up in the air in a fast motion. Repeat until you are exhausted!
Scissor jumps will give you a serious workout. These exercises are simple but amazingly effective at raising your heart rate and increasing your rate of breathing. To do a scissor jump, stand with the feet open more than your hips and squat down bending your knees. Jump up in the air and bring your legs together crossing your feet one in front of the other. This is where scissor jumps get the name (crossing of legs like scissors).
Another great cardio exercise, this will work on your leg strength as well as your cardiovascular, heart, and lungs. Lift your arms and when you pull them down raise one knee toward your chest. Do this motion on both your legs, alternating right and left. As you alternate from leg to leg, do a small jump or hop.
Running in Place
This is like using a treadmill without a treadmill. Running in place is almost as good as actually running except you miss the benefit of fresh air and scenery. This exercise is one of the best cardio workouts and one of the easiest to perform. It is not a low impact workout, but it will work your leg muscles along with your heart and lungs.
Jump, Jump, Squat
This is a great workout! It involves jumping up and down and squatting (just the name implies). To do this, start standing and perform 2 jumps keeping your knees bent, and after the 2 jumps go ahead and do one squat. This exercise is the most fun while listening to music. It is effective in getting your heart rate up and moving a lot of air through the lungs!
That is right, dancing. There is no right or wrong way to do this exercise, but it is best when you put on some energetic dance music and give yourself plenty of room to move around. Do not worry about how you look, just move to the music, and have fun with it. Dancing has been around for thousands of years and it has been proven to be good for your body and your soul as well.
We saved the hardest for last! Planking has become popular and there are all kinds of variations out there, but this one is extremely difficult. To do this start off in the plank position on your forearms. Push up from your elbows to your hands then go back down to the forearm position. Repeat this for about 30 seconds changing from arm to arm. Try to avoid rocking from side to side while switching arms and this will keep your tummy tight and engage your core.
At home cardio workouts are a necessity when you can’t get out to the gym or hit the trail because of the weather. It is difficult to say which one of all these exercises is the best, but the key takeaway is that cardio is great for your body no matter which forms you choose to engage in. Have fun with it!