You really can’t go wrong by implementing a consistent exercise regimen including swimming, cycling or walking -- or better yet, a combination of all three. All three exercises are aerobic workouts, sometimes called “cardio” workouts, meaning they offer a cardiovascular health benefit, among others. What’s great about these particular aerobic workouts is they’re all low-impact, so very little stress is exerted on the joints.
Benefits of Cardio
The benefits of aerobic exercise like swimming, cycling and walking are plentiful, according to the American Heart Association. This type of exercise burns significantly more calories per workout than resistance training does. Aerobic exercise also helps reduce body weight, lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, increase the “good” HDL cholesterol, and improve aerobic capacity and cardiovascular system health.
Swimming exceeds both cycling and walking in terms of calorie-burn potential, assuming a moderate pace. A 160-pound adult burns about 423 calories per hour swimming laps, according to MayoClinic.com. The same adult can burn 292 calories cycling at a leisurely pace for an hour and 314 calories walking at a brisk pace for an hour. Keep in mind that as you increase the intensity of any of these exercises, you’ll also increase the number of calories burned.
Monitoring the Cardio Benefit
The cool thing about cardio exercise is that you can monitor your progress during the workout. This helps ensure you’re working out at the optimal intensity -- not too low, not too high. You do so by monitoring your heart rate. Determine your maximum heart rate by either subtracting your age from 220 or subtracting 88 percent of your age from 206. Your target heart rate during an aerobic workout should be 50 to 80 percent of this number, according to the American Council on Exercise. For example, a 30-year-old’s maximum heart is 190 beats per minute, so the target heart rate is between 95 and 152 beats per minute.
Not every exercise is right for every person. If you’re a weak swimmer, for example, choose cycling or walking as your exercise of choice. On the same note, don’t push yourself beyond what your physical fitness level permits. You know your body better than anyone, so “listen” to what it’s telling you. Signs you’re exercising too long or hard include faintness, extreme weakness, nausea, light headedness and sharp muscle or joint pains.
Joseph Eitel has written for a variety of respected online publications since 2006 including the Developer Shed Network and Huddle.net. He has dedicated his life to researching and writing about diet, nutrition and exercise. Eitel's health blog, PromoteHealth.info, has become an authority in the healthy-living niche. He graduated with honors from Kellogg Community College in 2010 with an Associate of Applied Science.