What are the different types of cardio exercise and what are they good for?

Cardio is one of the most popular forms of exercise, and is used to classify activities that elevate your heart rate. These activities include cycling, rowing, jogging, boxing and swimming. Each exercise has many health benefits, but people may find that one activity is better for them than another. For example, cardio exercises are grouped by the intensity of the training style, being high-intensity, moderate-intensity or low-intensity. Depending on your physical health and fitness ability, certain intensities should be avoided or favoured over others.


Cycling is a low impact exercise that is less straining on your body, whilst still using all of the major muscle groups. It is an easy exercise for many people to get into, as it does not require a high level of skill or physical ability, with the only requirement being that you know how to ride a bicycle. Cycling regularly will help to improve your stamina and strength, with another benefit being that you can control the intensity of your workout (e.g. starting off slowly before building up to something more intense). You can also strengthen your legs through cycling without putting too much pressure on your joints, making it good for people who potentially struggle with problems like arthritis or muscle stiffness. Whilst most people may choose to cycle outside or swap to commuting via bicycle, sedentary bikes (also known as exercise bikes) are just as effective and offer their own high intensity options, such as spinning.


A common misconception of rowing is that it is only a workout for your arms, when it is actually an effective full body workout. It is an exercise that is considered safe for people who may have lower vision or are blind, and it can easily be done on rowing machines in a gym if you do not want to get out onto the water. Similarly to cycling, it is a low impact exercise that won’t place added pressure onto your joints and you can control the pace. If you regularly work out at the gym, you may overlook the rowing machines and head for the treadmills or the ellipticals, but rowing actually provides a much better full body workout. When choosing to purchase your own gym equipment, rowing machines also tend to be quieter and cheaper than treadmills, as well as being foldable so they can be stored elsewhere when not in use.


Jogging is generally classed as running at a pace of less than 6 miles per hour, and it is a good exercise for people who enjoy walking but feel as though this does not get their heart rate up enough to be considered a workout. Power-walking, jogging and running are all great cardiovascular exercises, but if you are looking to lose weight you will be more successful doing the faster activities. If you are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, studies have found that jogging can help to decrease insulin resistance. It also helps to keep you flexible if you are prone to sitting for long periods of time by preserving the flexibility of the discs between the vertebrae in your spine. Other studies have shown that it can extend your lifespan in comparison to others, even if you are only jogging at a light pace.


Boxing is a form of high intensity interval training (HIIT), which assists with pushing your body to be able to frequently cope with periods of high intensity activities. It is thought to aid weight loss more than other activities, even if it is done through exergaming (exercise performed through a gaming system) which can also make it more accessible to people who would not want to attend a class or go to the gym. The sport will exercise your whole body even if you might not think it does, as punches will require strength from your lower limbs and coordination from your body. Boxing can also be a great way to improve your balance, as you need to be able to move reactively depending on the conditions. Additionally, boxing can be beneficial for relieving stress and is a healthy way to do so, with research finding that the moods of people who participated in this activity improved. 


Swimming is another activity that will increase your heart rate without putting too much stress on your body. Each type of swimming stroke that can be incorporated into the exercise will workout different muscle groups in your body, and you will be working against the slight resistance in the water. Research has often highlighted the many health benefits of swimming, including potentially halving your risk of death and lowering blood pressure. It is also a safe exercise that can be suitable for people suffering from arthritis or who are recovering from an injury. There is evidence to suggest that swimming may be a good workout for people with asthma, as the breathing exercises often used can help to expand your lung capacity (however, you should look for a pool that uses salt water instead of chlorine and consult your doctor first). Another benefit of swimming is that it is an excellent activity for pregnant people and children, and it can often feel more like fun than exercise.

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