Cardio exercises are simply the best way to improve your health and physique at the same time.
Not only does cardio get your heart pumping, it also helps with getting better sleep, lowering blood sugar, improving your brain so you can think smarter and learn faster, and improves your mood. There are a lot of cardio exercises out there and people ask me all the time for suggestions on how to get a good cardio workout.
Here are my top five:
Number 5: Swimming
Swimming starts off my top five. The combination of zero impact, focus on breath control, and the benefits of buoyancy and hydrostatic pressure are amazing for circulation. If you have a pool, get in it as swimming gives you the best benefit for your time without a doubt. So if this is so good why is it at the bottom of my top five?
Unfortunately, it's not the most practical exercise practice. First, you need a pool or a large body of water and sometimes these may not be the easiest things to come by. Fitness clubs that offer pools sometimes require you to schedule in advance or when you show up for your workout, you find the lanes are full. And in Maryland, there really are not a lot of large open bodies of water suitable for swimming. You also need to have some basic swimming proficiency, a skill which takes years of practice to get the most out of your workout sessions.
Swimming is fantastic; accessibility can be a problem if you don’t have your own pool!
Number 4: Jumping Rope
This age-old tool of cardiorespiratory fitness, made popular in school yards, serves as a tremendous fitness tool overall. Maybe I’ll make a different post for it later for the plethora of benefits. But in short, it can provide an intense workout in a very short period of time and improve leg explosivity and reflexes.
In terms of practicality and accessibility, all it takes is a rope and a little coordination. The only reason why it isn’t higher is from the initial difficulty curve and challenge of repeated jumps for deconditioned individuals. This is one of the easiest travel fitness tools—just throw it in your bag and get jumping!
Number 3: Group Exercise Classes
For those of you that know me, you’ll probably be surprised I’ve listed group exercise so high. While I find different programs to be less than optimal, their actual effectiveness is amazing. They offer community, accountability, novelty, and affordability that’s unrivaled by nearly any other modality. Give your local kickboxing or cycling class a try and make your cardio fun.
Number 2: Rowing
My personal favorite comes in at the number two spot. Rowing is a killer full body cardio experience. The synchronized motion of the lower body, upper body, and core improves cardio for the whole body. It’s also zero impact, which lowers the rest time required for repeated sessions. The only downside is that you will need a rower. You can either purchase one for the home or get yourself a gym membership and embrace the joy of rowing. Most fitness clubs offer rowers and you can often purchase one for the home between $600 to $1,000. If you’ve got the space, I encourage you to get your own as you can either watch your favorite streaming service or listen to your favorite playlists when rowing at home!
Number 1: Walking
I know it sounds too simple to be true, but this is the single greatest cardiovascular exercise you can do! First, it's accessible to anyone with 2 working legs, with almost no barriers to entry. Second, you can walk anywhere at any time, like on your lunch break, after dinner, or first thing in the morning. And when it gets colder, you can easily find a place to walk indoors, like your office complex, the local gym or even the mall! You can also invest in a treadmill if you want to walk while also enjoying your favorite shows or music!
It may seem like walking is too easy, but its low intensity means it’s an exercise you can complete everyday with minimal soreness or discomfort. Want to improve your cardio for the long haul? Get out there and start walking every day!