When your typical week is jammed full of work, commuting and spending time with your family, it can be difficult to squeeze some cardio exercise into your few spare moments. But because this type of exercise can drastically improve your health, finding time to break a sweat is important. You don't need to exercise for hours each day to keep healthy; instead, juggle your priorities to fit at least 30 minutes of cardio into five days a week.
Also known as aerobic exercise, cardio is a type of exercise that requires the use of several of your muscle groups, has a rhythmic pattern and is possible to maintain continuously, according to the University of Miami Health System. During cardio exercise, your heart and lungs must work at elevated rates to provide you with blood and oxygen throughout your body. Many people get their cardio exercise at the gym through the use of such machines as the treadmill, stationary bike and rowing machine.
Any amount of cardio exercise is better than being completely sedentary, but the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise every week for optimal health. To meet the 150-minute recommendation, you can exercise five times a week for 30 minutes each. If you're short on time, try an up-tempo workout for just 15 minutes per day.
If you don't want to visit a gym to use the cardio equipment, you still have a long list of cardio exercises from which to choose. Outdoors, try walking, jogging, cycling, in-line skating, cross-country skiing, swimming or such sports as basketball and soccer. If you enjoy a home-based workout, consider such simple exercises as jumping jacks, jumping rope or even running on the spot. Varying your cardio workouts helps prevent your workout from becoming stale.
Even if you don't have time to meet the recommended 75 or 150 minutes of exercise each week, any amount of aerobic exercise is beneficial. MayoClinic.com notes that aerobic exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight or lose fat, improves your stamina, boosts your immune system, creates a sense of well-being, strengthens your cardiovascular system, reduces the chance of developing such health issues as high blood pressure, heart disease and some cancers, keeps you independent and even extends your life.
- University of Miami Health System: Exercise
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans
- Harvard Medical School: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights
- MayoClinic.com: Aerobic Exercise: Top 10 Reasons to Get Physical
- MayoClinic.com: Exercise and Stress: Get Moving to Manage Stress
Toronto-based journalist William McCoy has been writing since 1997, specializing in topics such as sports, nutrition and health. He serves as the Studio's sports and recreation section expert. McCoy is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University.