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Back To The Basics Of Cardio Exercise!

The following is a short list of the most common forms of cardiovascular exercise, with the advantages and disadvantages of each one.

The following is a short list of the most common forms of cardiovascular exercise, with the advantages and disadvantages of each one. This is by no means a definitive list. If you do something that's not on the list and it works for you, keep doing it.

Common Cardiovascular Activities
[ Click on one of the activities below or scroll down through the article and read them all! ]

:: Walking
:: Running/Jogging
:: Aerobic Dancing
:: Sprinting
:: Swimming
:: Biking
:: Rollerblading
:: Skiing


Walking is probably the most common form of cardio. People all over the world do it everyday. It is low-impact and can be done for hours on end, making it perfect for low-intensity, long-duration aerobic training. Fast walking can even get your heart-rate up into the aerobic training zone (70%) if you really push it or walk up hills.

This is the form of cardio most often recommended for beginning exercisers. It is easy and not stressful to the body at all. Walking shoes can be a good idea if you plan on walking a lot. If you use hand weights while you walk, be aware that studies have shown no difference in calories burned, strength or body fat as compared to people who did not use hand weights.


This is classic cardio and probably the first thing people think of when they think of getting in shape. Running can be done on the road, on a track, on a treadmill, through the woods, etc. All you need is a pair of shoes. Running is a natural activity, one the body was built to do.

Running is also effective at reducing hip size. It is a high-impact activity though, and overweight people would be better off with something less jarring such as fast walking, cycling or swimming. As with anything, start off slowly and gradually work up your speed and distance until you get where you want to be. Running can also be a social activity if you have a running partner or join a running club.

But beware, here are some performance tips that can help you...

  • Be careful when running down hills; the impact is much greater. Overuse injuries due to excessive running are often caused by running downhill.
  • Ensure your foot lands straight and is not splayed out to the side or inward.
  • If you get abdominal cramps while running you have a few options: stop and let it fade, stretch it out a little while running, massage the area, press on the area with your fingers or use your fist and punch the spot lightly. Cramps are caused by localized circulation difficulties. These strategies will help increase the circulation.
  • Get good shoes.
  • Allow your torso to rotate when striding. This will lengthen your stride and tighten up your waist as a bonus.
  • Keep your body erect and do not allow yourself to hunch over.
  • Don't bounce up too high when running. The goal is forward motion, not excessive up and down motion.
  • Don't run in areas where air pollution is bad. Running gets air into the really deep passages of your lungs. You don't want to saturate those areas with pollution.

Aerobic Dance Classes

The aerobic dance class is what likely pops into your head when you think of aerobic exercise. These classes can be effective for cardio training. Be sure you are being taught by a qualified instructor. There are also many excellent videos out, so you can exercise in the privacy of your own home instead of going to a class.

For many people, the social component of aerobic classes is what keeps them coming back. If you have no rhythm, however, this may not be for you; you may get frustrated. You can buy aerobic shoes or simply use ordinary running shoes (make sure they have good padding and ankle support).

There are a few different basic types of aerobics: low-impact, high-impact, step and water. Let me explain them further ...

  • Low-Impact aerobics classes always keep one foot on the ground. There is no jumping or pounding to hurt joints. This is a good thing for anybody but especially for those who have a lot of excess weight and can't or shouldn't jump around.
  • High-Impact aerobics involve some jumping movements and are appropriate for more advanced exercisers than beginners.
  • Step Aerobics are done on a raised platform (adjustable) using a variety of moves designed to take advantage of the stepping-up movement. Step aerobics can be low-impact or high-impact.
  • Water Aerobics are simply aerobics done in the water. They are low-impact and, due to the buoyancy of the water, are good for overweight people. It is not necessary to know how to swim to do water aerobics; they are usually done in waist-high water.
A recent innovation in aerobics is to include various martial arts or boxing moves into the mix, e.g. punching, kicking, etc. The popular Tae Bo™ videos are an example of this style. They give you the benefits of an aerobic workout plus some knowledge of self-defense.


Run as fast as you can. This type of cardio is suited to interval training and is generally not appropriate for beginners. Here are some tips for effective sprint training ...
  • Explode with as much power as you can, keeping your stride length as long as possible.
  • Kick your heels up behind you and stretch forward with your feet before you plant them.
  • You should lean forward somewhat as you sprint to keep your center of gravity slightly unbalanced in the forward direction.
  • Stay on the balls of your feet for the first few seconds of acceleration then stretch it out and plant with your heels.
  • Your arms should be pumping powerfully and your head should stay looking straight forward.
  • You can try finishing longer runs with a sprint at the end, just to finish strong or test your willpower or just to beat your running partner.


Swimming is usually done in a pool (it can also be done in a lake or ocean as well). Lessons are available at most swimming pools if you don't know how to swim. Swimming is also a great total body workout that is completely non-impact. It is perfect for overweight people, injured people and paraplegic people. Swimming can be done as long-duration, low-intensity exercise or as high-intensity, short-duration exercise. It is also a useful skill to have.

Here is a list of basic equipment that you will need for swimming ...

  • A good pair of goggles is a must. They will allow you to train longer without burning your eyes out from chlorine or salt.
  • For extra resistance, try wearing a shirt when you swim. When you swim without the shirt, you will feel like greased lightning.
  • One of the great things about swimming is that it can be done arms-only if you have a leg injury and want to maintain your cardiovascular fitness.

But, swimming does have a few disadvantages. First, it is not particularly convenient if you don't own a pool or live near water. It's not like walking, where you can walk out of your house and just do it. For maximum effectiveness you have to know how to swim, which can take a long time to learn properly. It is also a non-weight bearing activity and will not contribute to bone density, as other weight-bearing exercises such as running will.

Also, swimmers tend to carry more of their body fat subcutaneously (under the skin). This is the body's reaction to training in water. Because you are constantly losing heat to the water, the body will try to protect against this by increasing the insulation near the skin (fat). If you are trying to get lean, regular swimming is not the way to go, though it is okay for occasional use.

Road Biking and Mountain Biking

Cycling is becoming more and more popular due to its convenience, enjoyability and value as an exercise. The only downside is that it does require specialized equipment (a bike). Always wear a helmet when cycling to reduce the risk of head injury. Mountain biking is a great way to get some exercise and get out of the city at the same time. It is faster than hiking and can go where trucks cannot. It is a non-impact activity (unless you wipe out) and is easy to monitor intensity.

Here are a preformance tips to maximize your training time on your bike ...

  • Try to keep your pedaling cadence (r.p.m.'s) high, especially on hills. This will reduce the amount of force you need to exert.
  • Make sure your tires are properly inflated. If they are too soft, you will have to work harder.
  • Be careful when cycling around vehicles. They aren't always looking for you.
  • Standing up in the seat can give you extra pushing power by adding your bodyweight to the downward stroke of the pedal. This is especially useful on steep hills.


Roller blading is exactly like skating on ice without the ice. It is also known as in-line skating because the four wheels are in a row instead of at the corners like in traditional roller skates. This exercise is great for the lower body and is fun and convenient.

The advantage of this over skating is the ability to go up hills. You can't do this on ice. Uphill rollerblading is great exercise. Be sure to wear protective equipment. You may find your lower back limiting you in this type of exercise. Be sure to stretch it out and take breaks when you need to. Rollerblading lends itself to all types of aerobic training and is low-impact. The downside of blading may be your skating ability, but it is fairly easy to learn how to do it enough to get a good workout.

Cross-Country Skiing

This is one of the best all-around aerobic exercises there is. Every major muscle group in the body is involved in cross-country skiing. The only limitations are snow, equipment and skill. It is a smooth motion with no impact at all and is appropriate for all levels of conditioning. Skiing is more suited to long-duration aerobic activity.


Good luck! Whether you choose to do one of these cardio activites or one of your own, there are ways to exercise and still have fun, enjoy the sun and hang out with friends.