5 Different Ways to Achieve a Cardio Workout

By Jesse Wirges

 

For some people, cardiovascular fitness is something to be avoided at all costs. Whether it's the repetitive nature or the level of exertion required, a cardio workout routine does not always make it on the "to-do" list. However, the health benefits of cardiovascular fitness are unparalleled, and luckily there is more than one way to achieve a fun and effective cardio workout.

 

First, let's start at the ground level. Cardiovascular activity or “cardio” is defined as any activity that elevates the heart rate for a prolonged period of time through repetitive movements which utilize large muscle groups and results in increased caloric expenditure, elevated oxygen consumption, optimal performance of the heart and lungs, and several disease-reducing health benefits.

 

The American College of Sports Medicine or “ACSM,” recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of high intensity aerobic activity per week in order to maintain optimal health levels.

 

But what exactly does this look like? Which form of cardio is best? What will reap the most results, the most weight loss, or the most disease reversal?

 

There are several terms used to help define various types of cardio and their overall benefit to the body.

 

mother and child walking

 

LISS (Low Intensity Steady State) Workout

Low Intensity Steady State or “LISS” represents long bouts of aerobic activity that maintains the same exact intensity level without fatigue. More so than other forms of cardio, LISS does have specific advantages including being a comfortable activity for exercisers at all levels, aiding in fat loss through its specific fuel utilization of fat rather than glycogen within the muscle, and it allows for quicker recovery due to being less taxing on the body.

 

LISS can be performed through many modalities including jogging, walking, biking, climbing stairs, rowing, and swimming to name a few.

 

A few examples of LISS include:

  • Jogging for 30 minutes
  • Swimming laps for 20 minutes
  • Climbing stairs for 45 minutes

 

HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) Workout

High Intensity Interval Training or “HIIT” refers to the aerobic activity that is structured to contain short bursts of full-out intensity followed by longer bouts of low intensity. The purpose behind this style of cardiovascular training is to push the body beyond its normal limits, up the workout intensity, and break through weight loss and training plateaus.

 

The high intensity nature of this aerobic activity encourages increased fat loss, elevated metabolic rate, and improved lean muscle building and maintenance. HIIT modalities include all types of cardio activities including sprinting, biking, swimming, rowing, and climbing stairs.

 

A few examples of HIIT include:

  • Sprinting for 30 seconds followed by walking for 60 seconds (repeat 10-15x)
  • High resistance on the elliptical for 30 seconds followed by low resistance for 60 seconds (repeat 10-15x)

 

Tabata Workout

Tabata is a type of HIIT workout modality that takes the intensity level one step further by decreasing the overall rest periods in between the bouts of all-out effort. Traditional Tabata takes a few exercises and requires intervals of performance at a very high intensity level for about 20 seconds followed by only 10 seconds of recovery before going right back into the high intensity.

 

two women working out

 

This repetition is then repeated up to 8 times, thus resulting in a 4-minute workout. Exercise choices include plyometric movements such as jump squats, burpees, jump rope, lunge jumps, and mountain climbers as well as muscle toning movements such as planks, push-ups, shoulder press, tricep dips, and bicep curls.

 

An example of a Tabata workout includes:

Round 1: Repeat 4x

  • Burpees x20 seconds
  • Rest x10 seconds
  • Jumping Jacks x20 seconds
  • Rest x10 seconds

Round 2: Repeat 4x

  • Jump Squats x20 seconds
  • Rest x10 seconds
  • Mountain Climbers x20 seconds
  • Rest x10 seconds

Round 3: Repeat 4x

  • Lunge Jumps x20 seconds
  • Rest x10 seconds
  • Push-ups x20 seconds
  • Rest x10 seconds

Round 4: Repeat 4x

  • Shoulder Press x20 seconds
  • Rest x10 seconds
  • High Knees x20 seconds
  • Rest x10 seconds

 

Circuit Training

Circuit training is a structured combination of endurance, resistance, and aerobic conditioning through the use of repetitive sets of exercises or “circuits.” Each circuit contains 8-10 exercises and contains very little rest time between individual exercises. Once a circuit is repeated 2 or 3 times, the next circuit with a brand new set of exercises is immediately started and repeated in the same fashion.

 

The major benefit of circuit training is that it can be done without advanced machines, access to a gym, or heavy weights, as it can be performed from the comforts of your own home. It is a way to push your body to perform a high intensity workout in a relatively short amount of time, breaking through plateaus, increasing overall strength and agility, and encouraging a positive metabolic response.

 

An example of a home circuit workout could be:

Circuit 1: Repeat 2-3x with 1 minute rest in between each set

  • Jump Rope x 100 jumps
  • Push-ups x15
  • Squats x15
  • Dumbbell Rows (*Use milk gallons or soup cans if dumbbells are not available) x15
  • Jumping Jacks x20
  • Russian Twists x20/side
  • Bicep Curls x15

Circuit 2: Repeat 2-3x with 1 minute rest in between each set

  • High Knees x15/side
  • Shoulder Press (*Use milk gallons or soup cans if dumbbells are not available) x15
  • Alternating Lunges x15/leg
  • Left Side Plank x30 seconds
  • Right Side Plank x30 seconds
  • Triceps Dips x15
  • Alternating Step-ups (*Use a staircase step or a solid platform) x15/leg

 

two women doing box jumps

 

Recreational Sports

Recreational sports include anything from basketball to tennis to volleyball to Ultimate Frisbee, as the options in this particular category of cardiovascular activity are truly endless and should be performed based on sheer enjoyment!

 

Any of these recreational activities, if done at the appropriate intensity level, could be used to fulfill the ACSM aerobic activity recommendations as they increase your heart and respiratory rates, require quick movements, utilize muscles of the whole body, and encourage a positive mood through the release of endorphins and other hormones.

 

Conclusion

There are so many methods, modes, and options when it comes to cardiovascular activity! Choose what will work best for you and vary it up a bit here and there to continue pushing your body to progress and adapt to differing intensity levels and modalities. The best form of cardio is the one you will do consistently, so don’t feel like you have to stick to only one method to see results.

 

Weight loss, strength increase, disease reversal, and metabolic capacity will be the result of consistent movement, so find a routine that adheres to the ACSM recommended guidelines and pushes your body to its highest performance to see the results you are looking for. Cardio does not have to be boring, so have fun with it! Try new things – your body will thank you for it!

 

*Please consult with your doctor before starting an exercise regimen. The workouts listed in this article do not represent full workout routines or take into account individual physical abilities and are merely examples of the types of cardiovascular activities depicted.