There are enormous benefits to cardiovascular training, the two main ones are; improving fitness, so that you lead a greater quality of life, and potentially a longer life too.
As well as the fitness benefits, cardio is also great for burning calories and shedding layers of excess body fat.
More than just physical benefits….
The physical benefits are well known, but other benefits include: reducing stress, improving circulation, and increasing feel good hormones. Feel good hormones include endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine – which benefit your mental health too.
In this article we’re going to look at The Best Cardio Exercises For Fat Loss And Health. Make-sure that you include them into your weekly routine, so that both your mind and body can reap the rewards.
#1 Exercise Bike
One of the best forms of cardiovascular training is using a bike, this could be a road bike (if you enjoy training outside), or it could be a stationary bike at the gym. My Mixify wrote a brilliant article on the different stationary bikes available, and their unique benefits. It’s worth reading if you want to learn about what bikes are best suited towards your specific goals.
The main benefit of an exercise bike is the fact that it’s a low impact machine. It doesn’t stress out the joints in the same way as running. Bikes are ideal for those who are looking for low impact exercise, for example, if you are recovering from a knee injury, and want to train, but can’t place too much stress on your knee.
#2 Cross Trainer
Another excellent piece of equipment is the cross trainer, again because of it’s cardio benefits, and low impact nature.
An added benefit of a cross trainer, is the fact that it works both the lower, and upper body at the same time. A cross trainer targets the thighs, glutes, shoulders, triceps, biceps, upper back, and abs.
As it’s a full body movement (legs and arms are involved), it increases blood flow and circulation. It’s been reported to burn fat more evenly from around the body, as increasing full body circulation is better at mobilizing fat for fuel, compared to leg dominant cardio activities, such as running, or cycling.
#3 Rowing Machine
Very few machines can replicate the intensity which you can achieve on a rowing machine at the gym. Rowing will improve your cardiovascular health, and also strengthen muscles in the arms, upper back, and legs.
Rowing can be done at a low intensity, for those who are unfit, or recovering from injury, or it can be done at a high intensity. High intensity training is also known as HIIT training.
For example a high intensity workout may look like this: 200m rowing as fast as possible, followed by 45s rest. Then repeat this for 5-10 rounds. Most people will be completely destroyed after such high intensity training! So make-sure to build up your fitness before going flat out.
If you’re new to rowing then make-sure to first start of slow, get your technique right. If in doubt, hire a personal trainer to teach you how to row properly, and steadily build up your pace and distance each week.
#4 Ski Machine
Ski Machines are famous in the cross fit world, as they can be a brutal piece of kit. They will improve your cardio health in a matter of weeks.
Similar to the rower machine mentioned above, you can go slow and build up, or you can go flat out and destroy your body in a matter of minutes.
Ski machines are fun, and work a large range of big muscles, making them ideal for weight loss. They will also improve muscular endurance, and overall heart health.
#5 Weight Training
Weight training, believe it or not, can be an excellent way of doing cardio. In order for weight training to be cardiovascular, you need to be either doing high reps, or shortening your rest time in between sets. Here are a couple of ways to implement this…
Circuit Training – this is where you set up anything from 4-20 exercises, and do one after the other without taking a break. For example, 20 squats, 20 push ups, 20 sit ups, 20 lunges, 20 KB swings. You may do one full circuit and then take 60s rest, before going again.
Giant Set Training – this is where you work the same muscle group, but do multiple different exercises, one after the other. For example say you wanted to improve your biceps, you would do: bicep curls, dumbbells curls, pull ups, cable curls, etc – one after the other, without a break. This type of training is usually for the more advanced lifter.
High Rep Training – this is where you do high reps each set (15+) and then only rest for a brief period of time, before going into your next set i.e. 30-45s rest. This is a great way to burn more calories, and build up your muscular endurance.
We all know how tough, but equally rewarding running on a treadmill can be. Treadmills are one of the best ways to get a workout if you want to improve your stamina, speed and muscular endurance in your legs. There are different treadmills you can use:
- Home treadmills – usually cheaper, more affordable but not great quality.
- Manual treadmills – which are great for mimicking real running.
- Electronic treadmills – like the ones you find in gyms, where you can set the speed and incline.
To boost your cardio fitness you could either do longer treadmill sessions (15 minutes +) or do short, fast intervals for less time i.e. 20s sprint, followed by 90s rest. Both can be good, it just depends on your goals.
P.S if you have bad knees then running on treadmill might not be the best idea. I would opt for a bike or swimming.
How many times should you do cardio training each week?
It all depends on your goal(s), age and current level of fitness.
For a beginner, who’s new to training, or an elderly person (70+) then training 3-5x per week would be an ideal place to start. Remember to start slow and build up, even 10-30 minutes (3-5x per week) will benefit your cardio health. It will also contribute towards shedding excess body fat.
If you’re an intermediate trainer, you can either increase the frequency, distance, or time that you train for. For example you could do 3-5x 30-45 minute cardio sessions each week.
For fit people, and those used to training hard, you may be able to do 60 minutes+. Again, it all depends on your goals, and what you are trying to achieve. If you want to run a marathon then you’re going to have to train at least 4x per week (potentially 6 days). You’ll be doing hours of cardio most sessions.
The main thing is to feel like your pushing your body just enough outside of it’s comfort zone, without over doing it. If there’s any doubt, then reach out and hire an expert personal trainer to create the perfect cardio plan for you. One which is ideal for your current level of fitness, and one which will help you reach your specific goal(s).