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How to get the most of your cardio workouts

There are so many reasons to incorporate cardio exercises into your workout routine. You develop a stronger heart, manage your weight,  improve your overall energy,  improve your immune system, manage your stress, and reduce the risk of other health problems. 

Achieve health and fitness results while maximizing your workouts by realizing the importance of exercise in your life. Knowing the best type of cardio exercise that can work for you, how to do the exercises correctly, and finding out the right time to workout is essential. It’s so you can progress the right way to avoid unfavorable issues such as injuries and other health problems.

Know what type of cardio workouts can work best for you

There are various cardio exercises that you can do depending on your health condition, fitness level, age, gender, preference, and lifestyle. The cardio workouts’ frequency, duration, and intensity can always be adjusted based on your progress and current goals.

Low to moderate intensity sustained or steady-state cardio workouts (at least 30 minutes, five days a week, or a total of 150 minutes per week)

  • If you are starting or resuming with your workout routine, then steady-state cardio is the safest for now. You need to sustain a certain intensity that can keep your heart working even on prolonged duration of 45 minutes to one hour (or more). Brisk walking is one of the best examples of this cardio workout type. Make this program a part of your lifestyle on most days of the week so you can achieve your weight management and health goals and sustain the results. 

High intensity interval training workout (HIIT) (at least once a week)

  • Improve your metabolism, achieve fat loss and challenge your cardio fitness with a HIIT workout that combines work and rest periods lasting from seconds to minutes (Do 10 to 30 sets of a 30second sprint and 30 seconds walk). Unlike steady-state cardio, this can only last for a shorter period, usually between 15 to 30 minutes. It will enable you to push yourself harder by jumping or sprinting to increase your heart rate and sweat. Choose the best and safest HIIT workouts compatible with your current health condition to avoid injuries.

Circuit training (at least twice a week)

  • Combining cardio workouts and moves with strength training using bodyweight or external resistance such as dumbbells or barbells is another effective way to manage weight, improve your cardio performance, and increase your total body strength. Try doing three minutes of sustained cardio exercise like running on a treadmill and another 2 minutes of a full-body strength training routine such as squats and pushups. Repeat the sequence several times, changing the strength training moves for every set. You can burn more calories effectively during and after a circuit workout session like this, lasting for 30 to 60 minutes.

Always be prepared to do cardio workouts at home

Regardless of time, place, and exercise type, any physical activity that can raise your heart rate to the recommended range based on your condition and goals is beneficial. The best workout that you can do right now is sustainable to achieve your desired results. Choose exercises that are accessible, kind to your body, and enjoyable so you can stay consistent with the habit. 

Here are the best cardio home workouts to try if you can’t do outdoor exercises like walking, running, or other sports and if you don’t have a cardio machine (treadmill, bike, rower, or elliptical machine). These are also best if you have a limited workout space at home. I recommend using a fitness tracker for safety and ensuring that you reach your desired cardio intensity, comparable to what you can achieve if you use a treadmill or run outside.

  • ONLINE: Exercise with an instructor online by joining Zoom cardio workouts or following recorded exercise videos on your exercise app subscriptions/YouTube.
  • STAIRS: Climb or run (depending on your fitness level) up and down your stairs for at least 10 minutes. Take some rest in between when needed. You can also get a step bench or use your stair step
  • BASIC CARDIO MOVES: Get a stopwatch and time yourself for 30 to 60 seconds for each of the following cardio moves until you reach your desired cardio workout time, preferably 15 to 30 minutes: jump rope workout, jog in place, jumping jacks, basic punches, basic kicks and/or your favorite dance moves.
  • FITNESS GAMES: Try fun cardio dance, boxing, and sports using the latest gaming consoles such as Nintendo Switch, Oculus Quest 2, Wii, and PS3.

Do more prominent arm movements to increase your exercise intensity and calorie burn. At the same time, dancing, add light dumbbells (a pair of half-pound two-pound dumbbells) when doing a cardio routine such as boxing or using a pair of light  (half to one pound) wrist weights walking. You can also increase your range of movement when doing lower body exercises such as squats and lunges doing your HIIT or circuit workout.

Consider the best time of exercise that works well for you

One of the best things I have learned and realized in my personalized health coaching course is chronobiology. Timing of exercise is vital to avoid stress in your body to maximize your peak energy during your workout. The best exercise and eating schedule would depend on your health type. I will discuss this in my future articles.

If you are an early bird, get your moderate to intense workouts in the morning and choose light workouts in the afternoon. If you are a night owl, exercise when your energy level is at its peak (afternoon to evening), and your morning workouts should be light to moderate. Pushing yourself to work harder that is incompatible with your genetic makeup and lifestyle can add extra stress to your overall system, especially your heart.

Ensure safety when doing cardio exercises, especially when you are at risk of heart problems

Exercisers with a family history of cardiac diseases, a prior heart attack, and recent cardiac symptoms like chest and difficulty in breathing should consult a medical professional before engaging in an exercise program. However, even fit and active people with undiagnosed heart problems and are experiencing symptoms like heart rhythm abnormalities due to a recent medical condition, fatigue, stress, and lack of sleep should set up an appointment with a doctor. 

If you’ve been recently considered to be at risk of cardiovascular problems, once cleared to exercise, you should always listen to your body and practice the following guidelines:

  • Make sure that you get adequate rest and sleep before your workout.
  • Avoid heavy alcohol drinking if you intend to exercise the next day.
  • Always include longer a warm-up and cool-down period, at least five minutes, during exercise sessions for the gradual rise and drop of heart rate.
  • Monitor your heart rate manually by checking your pulse or wearing a fitness tracker.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all!


Email the author at [email protected] or follow her on Instagram @mitchfelipemendoza

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