If you’re like most people, “hitting the gym” generally consists of doing some basic cardio, maybe some core, and then calling it quits. And while that’s totally okay, we want you to get the most out of your workout! Cardio, short for Cardiovascular Exercise, is anything that raises your heart rate and blood circulation, and if that’s all you do at the gym, that’s perfectly fine!
It’s an important part of any fitness program, with benefits including reduced stress, better sleep, temporary relief from anxiety & depression, stronger heart & lungs, and weight loss. There are many forms of cardio training, although we often associate cardio with the basics: walking, running, swimming, bicycling. A common misconception is that running is the only way we can burn the calories we desire for weight loss or weight management.
Well, I’m happy to tell that it is more than possible to get a great cardio workout without running miles and miles on the treadmill. As an athlete who experienced years of repetitive sprinting and running drills on sports teams, as well as competed in several half-marathons, I know for certain that running can get old, and is not always fun. Luckily, there are ways to spice up your cardio routine AND burn even more calories than you would on a run. So before you flock to the treadmill, consider some of the under-rated and most effective forms of cardio out there.
HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. With endurance-style cardio, you burn fat 50% more effectively than low-intensity exercise. HIIT training increases fat loss by building muscle, thus increasing your total net calories burned every day. While accelerating fat loss and improving endurance, HIIT training comes in many forms, including an unlimited combination of cardio exercises, a few of which are listed below.
For a cardio routine to be classified as HIIT, it must be a short training session (usually 15 minutes), with a number of high intensity exercises for short periods of time, and equal amounts of rest time throughout the workout that are about 30 sec to a minute. As crazy as it sounds, the mental benefits of this form of cardio are just as great as the physical ones.
Anyone who has played on an organized sports team at some time in their life has felt the fear, pain, and anxiety of the phrase “Get on the line”. Often used as a punishment or reprimand, we tend to give sprinting a negative connotation.
However, the benefits of interval sprints as a cardio routine are far greater than simply running on the treadmill or outside. For one thing, they’re far less boring! Interval sprints require several high intensity, short periods of exertion. Sprints increase protein synthesis pathways by more than 230 percent, increasing the size and strength of powerful, fast-twitch fibers. Try a sprinting routine such as sprinting for 1 minute, resting for 30 seconds, and repeating this sequence for 15 minutes.
In the world of fitness, jumping rope means far more than Double Dutch and Helicopter. It is actually a highly effective form of cardio, burning up to 1,000 calories per hour. Jumping rope, as a form of cardio, is used for short periods at a time, given its high impact on the body. Grab a rope and play around with it. I suggest jumping for 1 minute, resting for 15 seconds, and repeating this sequence 15 times. Your calves will be on fire!
I know what you’re thinking… This sounds way too easy to be one of the most effective forms of cardio! But it’s true. Adding the element of the incline is both a very effective form of both cardio and helps with toning the body. As a form of LISS cardio, or Low Intensity Steady State, we must perform this exercise for an extended period of time. The incline acts as a mimic to uphill climbing or hiking.
Strengthen your calves and increase the number of calories burned during your workouts by 60%, just by adding an incline of 15% (the highest incline on modern treadmills) to your treadmill. To really get the full effect of this form of cardio, don’t hold on. Let your arms swing free and spend the next 45 minutes imagining you’re climbing a beautiful mountain!
Debatably considered the “perfect exercise” for your body, rowing works all of the main muscles at a high intensity. Rowing on the rowing machine is a total-body aerobic exercise, which burns over 800 calories per hour. Its low impact makes it a great way to strip body fat, if done properly. Work time depends heavily on intensity of the workout, but is suggested to go without rest.
Don’t get me wrong, I still incorporate simple long run days into my workout regimen. However, I make sure I don’t miss out on other, more effective forms of cardio as well. With so many options to choose from, it’s easier to get excited about your next cardio workout, and get out of your bored slump. Staying active is essential to mental and physical health and wellbeing, so we can’t forget to exercise our bodies in order to receive a healthy dose of insulin. When in doubt, just work out!
By: Renee Schiavone