Written by Mia Barnes, Guest Writer
Walking or running might be the first things that come to mind when you think of cardio. However, you may not be too thrilled at the idea of running for miles on a chilly morning. Exercise should be a part of your lifestyle, but finding something you truly enjoy could be challenging.
Cardio doesn’t require spending hours running around your neighborhood or on the treadmill — many other activities benefit your heart.
Why Cardio Is Important
Cardio strengthens your heart and increases circulation, which improves blood pressure and heart rate. It can help with type 2 diabetes by managing your blood glucose. Ideally, engaging in cardio at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week is best.
Getting your heart pumping each day has many physical and mental benefits. It helps in weight management, improves mood and even extends your life. Whether you want to do cardio for heart health or pure enjoyment, you’re sure to find an activity you’ll enjoy.
Heart Healthy Cardio Options
You can stick with traditional cardio choices or do something outside your comfort zone. You don’t have to commit to one option and can try various activities to keep things fresh and fun. Here are a few ways to get your blood pumping and improve your heart health.
Boxing is a fun form of cardio and blows off steam. After a stressful day, taking out some physical and mental energy on a punching bag can feel therapeutic.
This is a great option if you want to burn a good amount of calories while exercising. A short session of 30 minutes of boxing can burn around 270-378 calories. It is a great way to get your heart pumping and get fit.
Swimming is a great way to get your heart pumping while experiencing minimal impact. Low-impact cardio is ideal if you have an injury, sensitive joints or are pregnant. You’re not just limited to swimming in the summer, either — many community centers have indoor pools.
Swimming offers lots of variety. You can do laps or play water polo with a friend. In addition to strengthening your heart, you can tone your muscles and flatten your abs.
3. Adult Sports Leagues
Joining an adult sports league is a fun way to connect with your inner child or try something new. Maybe you loved soccer as a kid or wanted to get into volleyball your whole life. Joining a league gets you active while meeting new friends and discovering a skill. Being part of a group will also keep you accountable on days you don’t feel like moving. After all, you don’t want to let your team down.
4. Jump Rope
When was the last time you picked up a jump rope for some skipping? This was probably something you enjoyed as a child and is a great form of cardio that gets the heart pumping. Don’t underestimate the power of jumping for as little as 10 minutes because your heart will pump and your calves will burn.
You can jump rope just about anywhere, whether outdoors or inside with a high enough ceiling. Make this workout your own by playing music so you can jump to the beat and have fun.
You don’t have to be a good dancer to dance. This form of cardio won’t feel like exercise at all. Turning on your favorite playlist and dancing around your room will increase your heart rate while boosting your mood.
You can take classes that include dance-like activities. For example, Zumba is designed to move your body while having fun.
6. Horseback Riding
Although it seems like the horse would be doing all the work here, you are more involved than you think. You might not have considered horseback riding before, but it is a sport that a rider at any level can enjoy.
Horseback riding comes with many benefits. It burns up to 200 calories for a 45-minute ride, works your core, improves posture and coordination, and reduces anxiety. This is a great option if you love animals and want to try something out of your comfort zone.
You can fit cardio in your day by cycling around your neighborhood or investing in a stationary bike. Most gyms have bikes and offer cycling classes that push you to get your heart rate up. You can also purchase an under-desk model to exercise while you work. Find an option that works for you and pump those pedals.
8. Jumping Jacks
Jumping jacks will increase your heart rate and can be done anywhere at any time. They are ideal if you need a boost of energy during your workday or want to get your blood pumping when you jump out of bed in the morning — no equipment necessary.
Climbing stairs is a different and fun way to do cardio, and you may not even need to leave your home to do it. You can find staircases nearly everywhere, or you can use a Stairmaster at the gym. Try different paces or new locations to spice things up each workout and climb out of your rut.
Walking is a classic form of cardio. It is excellent for beginners that want to start slowly easing into cardio every day. Walking can be done indoors or outdoors, and incorporating small increments each day will begin to add up.
You can continue to challenge yourself once you get more experienced. If your 10-minute slower-paced walks are starting to feel easy, you can try walking in an area with more hills or increasing the incline and speed on the treadmill.
Hula-hooping might be one of the last things you think of when searching for cardio. However, if you want to do cardio and work on core strength, get an adult-size hula hoop and start swinging your hips. This fun and inexpensive activity is portable, improves your balance and is loads of fun.
Pump up Your Heart With Cardio
There are many fun and exciting ways to get moving. Cardiovascular exercise is crucial to heart health and improves overall well-being. Remember, there is more to cardio than just running, so find something you will look forward to doing each day.