If you think "jogging" when you hear the word cardio, it's time to expand your horizons. As MayoClinic.com explains, cardio, also referred to as aerobic exercise, is designed to boost your heart rate and make you breathe harder and faster. This, in turn, increases the strength of your heart, lungs and blood vessels, as well as the amount of oxygen in your blood, which then is more efficiently transported throughout your body. Doing cardio exercise helps prevent heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Fortunately, if you hate to jog, there are a wide variety of cardio options.
Basic Cardio Exercises
Don't like to jog? How about turning up the heat and running? Interval training, a mix of short bursts of all-out running mixed with recovery periods of walking or very slow jogging, is a top-flight form of cardio training. Walking itself is a fine form of cardio, and it doesn't put as much strain on your muscles and joints as running or jogging. Swimming and cycling are excellent low-impact cardio exercises. Aerobic classes on land or water get your heart pumping in a social setting that might encourage you to exercise more. Basketball, soccer, tennis -- the list of good cardio options goes on and on.
The fitness revolution in the 20th and 21st centuries owe a lot to the machines you see in the gym. Elliptical machines, rowing machines and stationary bikes are all designed for cardio workouts. You can walk on a treadmill for cardio exercise. Or you can supersize your cardio workout with a demanding spin bike class or rigorous climb on a stair stepper.
Anything that gets your heart pumping harder for 10 minutes or longer at a moderate or vigorous rate is a worthwhile cardio workout, explains the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This can include a walk at lunch, taking the stairs instead the elevator, gardening, shoveling snow, mowing the lawn and vacuuming, boxing, hiking and maybe even bowling, if you don't sit around too long and drink too much beer. Golf works if you carry or pull your own clubs. Shoot for a total of 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week to meet CDC guidelines for good heart health.
If you're out of shape, don't plunge into a rigorous cardio program without checking with your health care professional. Start out slowly and increase your level of activity gradually. If you want to exercise to lose or maintain your weight, you can choose from a variety of exercises, other than jogging, for weight control. MayoClinic.com lists a number of cardio exercises, as well and total calories burned per hour from those activities. If you expend an extra 500 calories per day, you can lose 1 pound per week. The list of cardio exercises that burn at least 500 calories per hour include backpacking, ice skating, tennis, basketball, raquetball and Tae kwon do. In addition to cardio work, strengthen you body twice per week by lifting weights, doing calisthenics such as pushups and pullups, or practicing yoga or Pilates.
Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.