One of the key components to any exercise program is cardio, however for most there is still a lot of mystery surrounding this topic. What machine works the best? How fast should I go? How much time is needed? As a result of this confusion most will tend to gravitate to one machine and perhaps even worse, remain at one pace and intensity for weeks on end. The goal of this article is to shed some light on this topic and leave you with some alternative ways to challenge yourself in a more time-efficient and fun manner.
How long should my cardio be?
There are many theories surrounding the topic of most effective duration of a cardio workout. It seems as if every year there is a new study claiming 30 minutes, 40 minutes, 60 minutes, etc. is the key to the most effective cardio workout. With such a wide variety of options to choose from, all claiming to be the superior method, it tends to leave many overwhelmed and confused. There is however good news. What virtually all of these methods have in common is the inverse relationship of time to intensity. The more intense the activity, the shorter the time needed to produce or maintain a training effect; the less intense the activity, the longer the required duration. In short, if you find you only have 30 minutes to devote to cardio, rather than choosing a light jog, try adding in sprint intervals. This will in turn not only promote positive changes to your cardiovascular system, but will also have a significant impact on the total number of calories burned.
What machine works the best?
This is often one of most discussed aspects pertaining to cardio training and unfortunately there is no right answer. Regardless of the machine, all of them have their strengths and weaknesses. For example, while the treadmill has the added benefit of forcing the user to exercise at a certain pace, it provides little to no benefit to the muscles of the upper body. The elliptical provides a low impact option to cardio training but leaves the intensity of the workout solely up to the user. All of these machines can have tremendous benefits but it is important remember to challenge your body in new ways regularly. Remember, there is no “perfect shape”, rather than always gravitating towards that same cardio machine, try a new machine each week. This will help keep your body balanced and prepared for whatever life throws at you.
Lastly, while we all know those certain individuals who absolutely love nothing more than spending an hour on a cardio machine, the reality is that this doesn’t describe the vast majority of us, myself included. Possibly the most difficult hurdle involving cardio to overcome is the mental aspect. All cardio machines revolve around a repetitive movement than can quickly become boring and monotonous. This is especially discouraging when the goal of a quality cardio workout is to challenge your body through intensities it isn’t used to. Here is a list of cardio workouts that will hopefully spark your interest, and in the process, might introduce you to a few new pieces of exercise equipment.