Cardio is an important part of a balanced fitness routine, but finding a cardio activity that is enjoyable and accessible can feel like a challenge. For many people, when you think about cardio you may picture an endless run and lots of huffing and puffing, which can be discouraging if you don’t like to run or have physical limitations or injuries that make running painful or inaccessible. There’s more to cardio than running, and many cardio activities can be adapted to fit into almost anyone’s fitness routine. Cardio has a number of physical and mental health benefits that everyone should enjoy and we want to help you get started!
Benefits of Cardio
Cardio, also known as aerobic exercise, is a broad category of exercise that works your cardiovascular and respiratory systems, along with working whatever muscles are powering your cardio activity. You may not be surprised to hear that regular cardio activity can help strengthen your cardiovascular system and improve your lung capacity. Regular cardio can also improve cognitive performance, help you sleep, strengthen your immune system, improve your mental health, and reduce your risk of falling with old age. With so many benefits, integrating cardio into your fitness routine can improve your health and happiness.
Adapt Your Cardio to Fit Your Fitness Level
Most cardio activities have a wide variety of intensities. One person may enjoy and feel challenged running a slow-paced mile around a track whereas someone else may go for a ten mile run up a mountain. Your cardio should be catered to your own fitness level.
It’s important to find a healthy balance between cardio workouts that challenge your strength and endurance but aren’t too intense, which can lead to injuries or burnout. If a challenging workout leaves you so sore it’s hard to walk the next couple days, you likely pushed yourself a little too far. Alternatively, if your cardio doesn’t cause an increase in your heart rate and breathing, you may not be experiencing the cardiovascular and respiratory exercise that can bring so many benefits.
Popular cardio activities that can be done at a variety of intensities include:
- Jumping Rope
- Cardio equipment
- Playing sports
- Boxing/Martial Arts
Listen to Your Body
Diving into a cardio activity that’s too intense too quickly is an easy way to get injured. Cardio can be accessible to almost everyone, but only if you tailor the cardio based on your body’s limits. Whenever you’re doing cardio — whether it’s an activity you do regularly or something you’re trying for the first time — it’s important to listen to your body before, during, and after your workout. While pushing your endurance and strength during a workout is how you can grow stronger, it can also be harmful if you’re pushing through pain or if you’ve jumped in at too high of an intensity. And don’t forget to warm up before you get started and remember to stretch after each workout to help avoid injury.
Find a form and intensity of cardio that works for you. There’s no single way to achieve your fitness goals and enjoy the benefits of regular exercise. To maintain fitness in your life, it needs to be something that you enjoy and that helps you feel good. Cardio can be a great component of that when you cater your cardio activities to your own interests and intensity level, instead of forcing yourself to do cardio that you don’t enjoy or avoiding cardio completely because certain forms are inaccessible or cause pain.
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