From High Fitness to Jumping Rope and More
It’s no secret that cardio activity is excellent for your health and wellness. It increases your cardiovascular health and lowers your resting blood pressure and heart rate, not to mention it is ideal for developing a clearer, improved mindset.
From running to dancing, kickboxing, and cycling, there are many cardio forms for each individual depending on your fitness level and desired regimen. Let’s dive into the why, followed by the what and how.
Why do Cardio?
The best cardio is not only healthy for your heart and mind but is also enjoyable. It is something that allows you to unwind, relax, and center your mind on your body, breathing, and movement. Cardiovascular exercise is often considered running, biking, swimming, and activities that get your heart rate up. The truth of the matter is that most exercise does this. What makes cardio different from other forms of exercise is that it is aerobic—drawing from the body’s oxygen stores versus anaerobic, which draws on glucose stores. Both forms of exercise have benefits, but when most individuals refer to cardio, they’re referring to aerobic exercise.
So, why do cardio?
Cardio exercise is excellent for your skin, weight, mental health, immune system, and sleep. It is challenging but also monotonous enough that our minds can wander, zone out, or simply focus on our internal systems. Cardio is an excellent way to reduce stress levels and pent-up frustration or energy from the day. Not to mention, most forms of cardio are cost-effective in that they’re completely free and easy to participate in. Let’s dive into the specific benefits of cardio training in further detail.
Improved Brain Health
A study in the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) found that physical activity is associated with a lower risk of dementia. Not to mention, cardio workouts help improve memory and our ability to think clearly. It helps to combat a decline in brain function with age and protects against other brain-related conditions, such as Alzheimer’s.
When we do cardio exercises, we clean out the “muck” in our system, allowing for increased blood flow and circulation to our heart, brain, and other organs. This helps reduce the chance of stroke in adults. Increased circulation also has tremendous benefits on our skin, as it increases the oxygen supply and results in clearer skin.
Improve Mood, Sleep, & Energy
Our mood can fluctuate each day. That said, regular cardio workouts help boost our mood by reducing stress, improving self-esteem, and releasing tension-fighting hormones such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. The endorphins released after a stellar workout also provide energy throughout the day. And when you’re ready to sleep, cardio allows you to snooze faster and maintain REM for longer.
"Cardio exercise is excellent for your skin, weight, mental health, immune system, and sleep."
What are the Traditional Forms of Cardio?
So, you’re interested in including forms of cardio into your exercise routine, but you’re wondering which one is right for you. The good news is that there are many forms of cardio from which to choose. Let’s start by discussing the more traditional methods to achieve a total body workout.
Running is perhaps the most commonly thought of form of cardio activity. It is a high-intensity exercise, doesn’t require any cardio equipment, helps you burn calories, and allows you to move at your own pace. If you’re interested in getting your heart pumping, consider running at different intervals with periods of sprinting. You may also incorporate breaks in your run for jumping jacks, squat jumps, high knees, mountain climbers, or other lower-body movements.
Cycling is another highly-popular form of exercise targeting your cardiovascular system. It’s versatile, fun, and targets your lower body leg muscles. Not to mention, it’s lower impact than running—aka gentle on your joints. Cycling requires you to keep your core tight and maintain proper alignment of your entire body. The best part? You can participate in cycling indoors and outdoors, on mountain trails or paved roads, on a road bike or mountain bike. It’s totally up to you.
Swimming is an excellent way to achieve a total body workout. It requires control and an understanding of how to move using the proper form. In this way, it isn’t quite as intuitive as running. Still, it is more gentle on the participants’ bones and joints, which is why it is a popular activity for older adults, those coming back from an injury, or simply those interested in a low-impact form of cardio. As you progress in your ability to swim well, there are resistance tools that can help to improve your cardiovascular health further.
What’s Trending in Cardio?
Here’s the coolest part of this article: innovations. Not only does cardio come in traditional forms, but individuals are constantly innovating and developing new methods for individuals to enjoy. While some forms trend for only a short period, others have made a name for themselves and been adopted into professional athletes’ and casual exercisers’ routines. Let’s explore three trending methods of cardio exercises further.
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
HIIT delivers exactly what its name states, high-intensity exercises done in intervals. It has become increasingly popular as the training routine is excellent for burning fat stores in the body, sculpting muscle, and increasing metabolic burn rate.
Crunch has our very own HIIT Zone, exclusive classes with state-of-the-art training and heart-pumping, team-based workouts. Not to mention, it’s a lot of fun. NASM-accredited, HIIT Zone is available at select locations. Search here.
High fitness is another recent craze sweeping the nation. It was developed in the recent decade as an alternative to traditional cardio and strength training workouts. High-fit combines dance with traditional movements, such as squats, high knees, mountain climbers, burpees, and bicep curls, to achieve a fun, fast-paced, and effective workout.
Vinyasa is a form of yoga that combines movements and positions to form a seamless flow. The primary focus in Vinyasa is the movement itself and the breath, which leads to many physical and mental benefits. Vinyasa’s variable nature helps participants develop a well-rounded body in a risk-free environment, as the motions are unique and based on natural movements.
In recent years, yoga is rising as a top form of cardio and meditation. It encourages individuals to focus not only on their outer health but also on their inner health as they seek to relax, unwind, and focus inward.
It’s no secret that cardio exercise is excellent for your health and wellness. It increases your cardiovascular health and lowers your resting blood pressure and heart rate, not to mention it is ideal for developing a clearer, improved mindset. Remember, there are many forms of cardio to choose from, so try one or try them all. Keep a fitness journal and write down how you feel after participating in each form. You’ll discover the right route for you to combine fun with fitness.