The term ‘cardio’ is an abbreviation of the human cardiovascular system. It refers to the heart and network of blood vessels that run through our body. The cardiovascular system is responsible for pumping oxygenated blood and circulating it through the body. That way, oxygen and other necessary nutrients reach the cells. Exercises that we refer to as ‘cardio’ are specialised moves that get the heart beating faster, consequently pumping more oxygenated blood and giving more nutrients to the cells.
Any cardio movement gets your heart beating at about 50 to 75 percent of its maximum capacity. You can find the maximum capacity of your heart by subtracting your age from 220. For example, if your age is 30 years, the maximum capacity of your heart is 220 minus 30, which is 190 beats per minute. This is a standard formula.
Improved blood circulation is not the only outcome of cardio exercises. The heart, being a muscle, gets stronger through cardio workouts. Because of increased flow of nutrient-rich blood, your brain gets healthier and is able to think better. Your skin gets healthier, and your body burns more fat than it would have if you had relied solely on lifting weights. Cardio exercises also trigger the secretion of endorphins in your body which reduce stress and control mood swings and, of course, you sleep better.
10 best Cardio Exercises to do at home
Before you start any exercise regime, cardio or other, it is important to start with some stretches. This will warm up your body and prepare your muscles for the training you will be subjecting them to for the next 30 minutes.
Start with some simple hand stretches. Hold your arm with elbows pointing to the ceiling and palms placed flat on the back, and stretch the triceps. Do this for 30 seconds on each arm. Then stretch them out in front and take your left arm to the right side and stretch the shoulders. Repeat this with each arm for 30 seconds. Now do similar stretching movements for your glutes, quads, back, adductors and abductors.
Note: Throughout this article, we will be using specific terms for specific muscles. For the uninitiated, here is your ready reckoner. Glutes are the muscles that form your buttocks, quads are the front muscles of your thighs, and hamstrings are the ones in the back of your thigh. Your inner thigh muscles are known as the adductors and the muscles forming the outer sides of your thighs are called abductors.
As a simple rule of thumb, stretch each muscle group for at least 30 seconds. If you are doing it right, you will be able to feel the pull. Once you are satisfied with the stretching and once your body feels like it is all warmed up, you may start your cardio routine.
Here are 10 effective cardio movements that you can do from the comfort of your own home. No more excuses about time constraints!
1. Jump Ropes
This is one of the good old childhood games! All you will need is a skipping rope. Just hold the two bars in your hand and jump away. The higher and faster you jump, the more effective your workout will be. The jump rope move works almost all your muscles – the chest, the back, shoulders, biceps and triceps, your abs, your obliques, quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves as well as your soleus (muscles right below the calves). Do just 5 minutes of jump rope without stopping and you are off to a great start.
2. Jumping Jacks
Stand straight with your arms to the side of your legs, and just a little bit of bend in the knees. Now as you jump, stretch out your arms and legs like a starfish. When you come back down, return to the original position. Jump high and jump fast. Do a minimum of 50 repetitions of these. Jumping jacks, too, engage most of your muscles at the same time – the calves, hip adductors and abductors, shoulders, and the core (abdomen and obliques). Further, jumping jacks releases great amounts of endorphins into your blood, thus reducing stress.
3. Squat Jumps
Squats typically work your glutes, quads and hamstrings while keeping the lower back and abdomen engaged. Jump squats do all these while giving you the benefit of cardio so that your heart rate is increased. Place your feet apart to the width of your hip and sit on your rear, not touching the floor. Ensure your knees never go beyond the line of your toes. Hold the position for about two seconds and jump right back up. Your feet need to leave the ground at this point. Do 20 repetitions of this move without rest.
4. Spot Jogging
This one’s easy. You just need to run on the spot, but your knees need to go as high up as possible if you want this move to be effective. If done properly, spot jogging will work on your chest, back, biceps, triceps, core as well as leg muscles. Do this for a full 3 minutes.
Click on the next page for 6 more cardio exercises!