You can learn to tolerate cardio it by sprinkling small doses into your weekly routine, but for many people, long treadmill sessions will never be truly pleasurable. Sound like you? Well, here’s happy news: your idea of the best cardio workout may be slightly off base – and the tweak could be much more to your taste!
Many women associate cardio with things like running, swimming, cycling, brisk walking – or what experts typically label “aerobic exercise”. But that’s a limiting definition. Cardio – aka cardiovascular exercise – is any activity that strengthens your heart and improves the function of your cardiovascular system; major muscle groups need to contract repeatedly, enough to elevate the heart rate to a target level (some experts give a general ballpark of at least 50 percent of your max).
Hear That? Any Activity
That umbrella of cardiovascular exercise includes both aerobic and anaerobic workouts – aerobic being a light to moderate sustained effort (typically about 65 to 80 percent of your max heart rate) that needs
oxygen to help fuel your muscles, and anaerobic being a typically shorter but tougher effort (think heavy lifting or sprints). That means that, yes, a 30-minute run counts, but so does a kettlebell circuit – and let’s face it, the latter sounds way more appealing when it’s raining sideways in Cape Town or your front door is frosted shut on the Highveld.
Cardio improves heart health (lowering resting heart rate, increasing work output), cholesterol levels and your body’s ability to metabolise sugars, which is why you need it even if weight loss isn’t one of your goals. Plus, it gives you a mood-boosting endorphin rush to help fight off the winter blues. In fact, slimming down is considered a bonus, not a requisite. “For example, walking is cardiovascular exercise, yet for people of above-average fitness, it’s not intense enough to increase endurance or weight loss,” says biokineticist Prof Todd Astorino. “That doesn’t mean that regular walking can’t enhance your fitness and health.”
Regardless of your goals, many experts recommend 150 minutes per week of moderate activity or 60 to 90 minutes of vigorous activity for good cardiovascular health. If your go-to approach isn’t delivering, or you just want to add a new waist-slimming workout to your mix, use one of these innovative routines to redefine your cardio experience…
A workout that builds muscle and counts as cardio? That’s serious multitasking. One that blasts kilojoules and increases strength using just your body weight? Genius! Rev your heart rate and your hot-body results with this 24-minute no-equipment workout created by trainer and former ballet dancer Brynn Jinnett. Perform the four exercises in order as prescribed. Complete four rounds in total.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, then bend your knees to lower your body into a squat (A). Pressing through your heels, straighten your legs as you jump off the floor (B). Land softly and immediately lower into another rep. Continue for 30 seconds. Rest for 15 seconds, then continue to move two.
Start on all fours, back flat and core tight, then slightly lift your hips to raise your knees off the floor. Walk your right hand and left foot forward, then your left hand and right foot; continue crawling forward quickly for 30 seconds, then rest for 15 seconds. Repeat the pattern, crawling backwards, then move on to the next exercise.
Step your right foot forward and lower into a lunge (A). Return to start, then step to the right and lower into a side lunge, keeping your left leg straight (B). Return to start, then step your right foot back and lower into a reverse lunge (C). Return to start. That’s one rep. Continue on the right for 40 seconds, then switch sides and repeat on the left. Rest for 15 seconds before continuing to the next exercise.
4/ Inchworm with push-up
Place your hands on the floor in front of you, legs straight (A); walk out so your body forms a straight line (B) and do a push-up (C). Slowly step your feet towards your hands, legs straight, and stand. That’s one rep. Repeat for 30 seconds; rest for 15 seconds, then return to the first exercise.