According to the American Heart Association, any aerobic activity involving the steady movement of the arms and legs improves heart health, and should be performed at least 30 minutes most days of the week. The options for getting active are endless as the fitness industry produces myriad videos, books and exercise equipment for the health conscious consumer. The key is to discover enjoyable movements that work best for your body and increase your breathing rate.
Treadmills, elliptical machines, stair climbers and cycles consist of the most popular cardio machines at the gym. Each requires the continuous motion of large muscle groups which fires up the metabolism and burns hundreds of calories, depending on your intensity. Try alternating machines after about 10 minutes for a boredom busting, cross-training workout. For example, spend 10 minutes on the treadmill, switch to the stationery bike, and conclude with the elliptical. Cross-training injects variety in your routine and prevents injuries.
Dancing is an engaging aerobic activity that provides excellent cardiovascular conditioning. Moving around to your favorite music for 10 to 30 minutes consists of a full cardio workout. Video games and dance fitness DVDs provide good options for choreographed aerobic routines. Local gyms and community centers offer group exercise classes such as Zumba, hip-hop aerobics, salsa and bellydance to satisfy the increased interest in dance fitness. One hour of hip-hop dancing burns between 370 to 610 calories, while Zumba torches up to 650 calories. Salsa and bellydance expend up to 480 and 360 calories, respectively. All estimates depend on variables such as body weight and exercise intensity. In addition to the physical benefits, dancing also reduces stress and chronic fatigue, improves energy and elevates mood, according to the American Council on Exercise.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) combines maximum exercise intervals with periods of lower intensity for active recovery. This advanced form of cardio requires you to work 80 percent above your maximum heart rate for 30 seconds to one minute, followed by two or three minutes of slower paced activity. Sprinting around a track as fast as possible for one minute, then jogging to lower the heart rate is an example of HIIT training. These workouts are efficient, since more effort is exerted in less time and burns approximately 20 calories per minute. HIIT training is not for beginners and should only be performed two or three times per week to allow the body to recover between sessions.
Not everyone can begin an exercise program without consulting a physician. If you suffer with physical ailments like diabetes, heart disease, obesity or pregnancy, you must discuss your options for appropriate physical activity with a doctor. Always remember to warm up before working out to avoid injury. Drink plenty of water while exercising to keep hydrated. Stop immediately and seek medical attention if you feel faint or experience breathing problems.
- American Heart Association: What Type of Physical Activity Is Best?
- BodyBuilding.com: 5 Unbeatable Forms of Cardio for Greater Fat-Burning!
- ACE: What are the benefits of dance inspired workouts?
- ACE: What is High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and what are the benefits?
- Womenshealth.gov: Playing it safe
- Fitness Blender: Dancing Calories Burned by Type
- Prevention: High Intensity Interval Training: How Long Should Your Workout Be?
Ashan R. Hampton is an instructor, multimedia specialist, author and commercial radio broadcaster/producer. She has earned certificates in information technology multimedia and instructional design. Hampton also holds an M.A. in English and is completing a doctorate in higher education administration.