Cardio workouts involve moderate to vigorous activity that uses large muscle groups to spike the heart rate to at least 65 percent of its maximum capacity.
While this intensity isn’t the go-to for building muscle, but it can help you burn fat and lose weight with more benefits to boot:
If running on a treadmill isn’t your thing, circuit training may be a good way to get in cardio.
Safe for beginners and advanced gym-goers alike, “it’s all about moving from one exercise to another,” explains Olson.
While you can stick with traditional cardio moves like jumping rope, box step-ups, and jumping jacks, a weight-training circuit that alternates between resistance-training moves like jumping jacks and dumbbell squats, skipping rope and push-ups, or step-ups and back rows can make your workout even more efficient:
You’ll burn calories, reap benefits of cardio, and strengthen your muscles while you're at it.
Also known at HIIT, this technique calls for an all-out effort during quick bursts of exercise.
Afterward, you rest for a short period of time, insuring you get the most out of every minute of your workout.
Compared to other cardio techniques, “it’s more effective at reducing belly fat and has an after-burn effect, too," Olsen says, describing the way the body burns calories after the activity in its effort to recover.
The downside is that you really have to push yourself to about 90-percent of your max heart rate to truly be doing HIIT, he adds—meaning this approach isn't for beginners.
While you might think kettlebells (those round weights with handles) are a resistance-training tool, any exercise that involves swinging the bells can deliver a nice cardio benefit.
“They’re designed to develop muscular endurance rather than pure strength and use the entire body, including the legs, core, back, shoulders, and hips,” Olson says.
Don’t be fooled though—using them properly isn't as simple as you might think since form is super important.
If you’re new to kettlebells, learn how to correctly use them to avoid cardio injuries.
Biking, rowing, and swimming can deliver the benefits of cardio and help with fat burn plus they can be adjusted to meet your fitness level and capabilities.
“Rowing and swimming more actively engage the upper body and core, but all three are low impact so they can be beneficial for people with frail bones, such as individuals with osteoporosis or other orthopedic issues including back pain from a herniated disk,” Olson says.
Running fast for short periods of time—about 30 seconds or less—is an anaerobic type of exercise that can count toward your weekly cardio. And speed work is similar, but you may also be running backwards, or laterally side to side.
“Sprints and speed work improve balance, power, strength, and running efficiency, utilizing fast twitch muscle fibers, which tend to be less functional as we age,” Maianu says.
That said, speed work might not be the best choice for you if you're typically sedentary since you'll need to work up your strength to partake without injury.