Cardio exercises are good for your heart and lungs, but that's not all -- they're good for your waistline too. Keeping your weight within healthy parameters, eating a balanced diet and maintaining or increasing your cardiovascular fitness may, according to staff at the Mayo Clinic, improve your mood, boost your energy levels and promote better sleep. In addition, cardio exercises can help strengthen and tone the muscles in your lower extremities.
High-impact cardio exercises involve a brief period where both of your feet are off the ground at the same time. Examples of high-impact exercises include jogging, running, sprinting and jumping rope, all of which emphasize the lower extremities. While effective, high-impact cardio exercises shock load your bones, joints and muscles, some exercisers, especially those who are overweight or suffering from ankle, knee, hip or spine problems, may find that high-impact exercises are uncomfortable or even painful. If this is the case, select a low or non-impact activity instead.
Where high-impact activities involve both feet leaving the ground at the same time, low-impact activities involve keeping one foot on the ground. Walking, low-impact aerobic dance moves and performing step ups are all low impact in nature. Even though there is little in the way of impact, you must still support your weight using your leg muscles, so in addition to giving you a good cardiovascular workout, low-impact exercises will also help keep your legs in good shape.
Non-impact exercises include cycling, rowing, kayaking, water aerobics and swimming. While you must use your legs to perform these exercises, at least some of your body weight is supported, which makes these activities especially suitable for heavy exercisers or those with ankle, knee, hip or spine conditions.
Group Exercise Classes
Many group exercise classes combine high-, low-and non-impact exercises to help you get fit, control your weight and strengthen your muscles, bones and joints along with your heart and lungs. Usually set to music, group exercise classes come in a variety of formats so you can select the class that is right for you. Mixed-impact group exercise classes include step aerobics, hi/lo impact aerobics, martial arts-based classes and circuit training. As with most cardio activities, these classes include a lot of lower-extremity-dominant exercises. Before joining a class, check with the instructor to be sure the session you are contemplating joining is pitched at your current level of fitness. Attempting a class that is too advanced, irrespective of impact, may lead to injury.
Patrick Dale is an experienced writer who has written for a plethora of international publications. A lecturer and trainer of trainers, he is a contributor to "Ultra-FIT" magazine and has been involved in fitness for more than 22 years. He authored the books "Military Fitness", "Live Long, Live Strong" and "No Gym? No Problem!" and served in the Royal Marines for five years.