The best thing about running is that you don’t need much equipment or instruction to do it. All you need is a pair of running shoes, and you’re off on your heart-pumping, calf-sculpting, and calorie-burning workout. The average person burns 100 calories per mile of running or jogging. You can run inside on a treadmill, or outdoors if you prefer scenery. If you run outdoors in a hilly location, you’ll probably work harder than if you were to run the same distance on a treadmill. The general rule is to start your run with a few minutes of walking, and slowly build up to a run. Do the same in reverse when winding down. Running isn’t for everyone, though. People with knee or lower back pain should avoid running on asphalt, as the impact is hard on the knees and back. If you experience pain while running on the treadmill, you should either slow the pace or increase the incline to reduce the impact—or pick a different sport.
Swimming is the ideal form of cardio if you suffer from back or knee pain, as there is no impact involved, and it engages all the muscles at once, sculpting and toning with every movement through the water. As you move, your body needs to fight the water’s resistance because it is twelve times as dense as air. The average person weighing 155 pounds will burn 500-700 calories per hour of swimming. But before you jump in, here are a few beginner tips to follow to help you make the most out of your swim. Stretch before and after. Just because you’re jumping into a pool doesn’t mean you don’t need to stretch out your muscles—as you would before a run. If you don’t, you risk being in some serious pain tomorrow. Breathe. This may sound like a no-brainer, but you must remember to breathe as you swim. Use your whole body. Don’t rely on your upper body to carry you through the water. Use your arms to pull your body, your core to rotate, and your legs to kick.
Cycling is a great sport because it’s practical, versatile, and fun. It works for all occasions—whether you’re riding socially or solo. If you live close enough to your workplace to travel by bike, you can incorporate your workout into your daily schedule. Invest in a bike rack for your car and seek out trails in the area if you prefer to bike a trail alone, or with family. If none of these options appeal to you, you can attend an indoor cycling class, where the instructor will push you hard, make you sweat, and encourage more calorie burning. The calories you burn cycling will vary depending on whether you are on a stationary bike as well as the incline of your course. On average, you will burn 200-300 calories within half an hour of cycling.
Dancing is a fun way to add cardio to an otherwise drab day. Dance alone, dance with a partner or a friend, or join a class—any way you dance, you’re sure to burn a lot of calories doing it. If you’re into freestyle, put your favorite song on, and rock out. Then, the next day, add another song. Build up your repertoire day by day to increase your endurance. If you prefer something more social, or maybe something that will push you harder than you would push yourself, join a dance class. Ballroom dancing burns on average 200 calories per hour. High-intensity dance, like jazz or modern dance, will cause you to burn more than twice that amount in one hour.
5. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
HIIT is known to be one of the most effective weight-loss exercise programs. It involves short bursts of intense physical activity followed by very short rest periods. Studies show that this type of training burns more fat than moderate physical activity for a longer period of time. There are many ways to complete HIIT workouts. Videos and instruction are available online for those who wish to burn a lot of fat but are short on time. The average HIIT workout lasts about 15-20 minutes. In just one 20-minute session, you can burn up to 320 calories.
Zumba is sweeping the cardio nation with fun, repetitive dance routines that anyone can do—even those with two left feet. Your first Zumba class may be a little confusing, frustrating, or even disheartening, but come back to the same class with the same teacher a few more times, and you’ll get the hang of it. Zumba choreography incorporates many different forms of dance including hip-hop, salsa, samba, merengue, and mambo. It has become such a popular form of exercise over the past decade, that you’re likely to find a class in your area. In just one hour of Zumba class, you can burn up to 500 calories. Grab a friend, and head to the nearest gym or studio for a fun cardio experience.
Most sports—but not all—are good ways to get in your cardio workout (and not even realize you’re working out). High-intensity sports which involve a lot of running and jumping like basketball, racquetball, soccer, tennis, ultimate frisbee, or volleyball (and the list goes on) will get your heartbeat up, and keep it up as long as you are participating. Sports which are not high intensity and will not raise your heartbeat for a long time, like baseball or golf, for example, should not replace your cardio workout. So, join a team, or get a group of friends together on the field or court and get moving!
If you suffer from knee or lower back pain and running on a treadmill or climbing a Stairmaster is not for you, try out the elliptical machine during your next visit to the gym. The elliptical trainer is designed to take pressure off the joints and decrease the risk of impact injuries. Your feet move in a fluid, circular motion—you control the speed and the intensity. A 160-pound person can burn up to 345 calories in a half-hour training session on the elliptical. These machines are also available for purchase in your home so that you don’t have to run out to the gym and pay an expensive membership fee to stay in shape.
Kickboxing is a high intensity, aerobic form of martial arts. It involves kicking and punching movements and is practiced both as self-defense and as a cardio fitness sport. If you are interested in kickboxing, you will most likely need to join a nearby class, or hire a personal trainer, as it involves precise technique and personal instruction. A kickboxing class usually lasts 45-60 minutes, and you can burn up to 800 calories per class.
CrossFit is a relatively new fitness regimen, created and founded in 2000 by Greg Glassman and Lauren Jenai in California. As the name suggests, CrossFit involves many different forms of exercise including HIIT, weightlifting, plyometrics, gymnastics, calisthenics, and many other exercises. CrossFit involves both aerobic, and calisthenics exercises—meaning it will help you to both lose weight and build muscle. The goal of CrossFit is to increase strength, endurance, flexibility, speed, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy. About half of all the CrossFit gyms exist in the United States. Many people swear by this method of exercise, so if you have a CrossFit gym near you, it’s worth a try!
Boot camp is called boot camp for a reason. These workouts are intense and difficult, but they are designed to help you lose weight and gain muscle fast. Go all out in every session, and you can burn 500 calories in half an hour. If you choose to participate in boot camp, you’ll most likely be doing sit-ups, push-ups, squats, and sprints—and the instructor will probably not go easy on you. If you need the push, the drive, and some tough love to get you moving, sign yourself up for boot camp near you. No excuses.
Admittedly, not all forms of yoga are efficient heartbeat-raisers and fat-burners. Certain types of yoga, like hot yoga or HiiYoga (high-intensity interval yoga), are designed to deliver all the benefits of yoga-like strength, flexibility, balance, and mindfulness—in addition to a healthy cardio workout. If you stick to yoga practice and reach an advanced level, you’ll be doing things with your body that you probably never thought possible. You’ll also be increasing muscle strength and tone, which increases your metabolism, allowing you to burn more calories with each session.
Pilates has many proven benefits—so many, in fact, that physical therapists use Pilates as a treatment for patients with chronic back pain or a knee injury. It is designed to improve posture, flexibility, and strength. While you will not burn as many calories during a Pilates class as you would in a Zumba or kickboxing class, you will improve and strengthen muscle tone to enhance athletic performance, increase endurance, and improve metabolic function. There are different factors involved in calculating calories burned during a Pilates class such as the instructor’s choice moves, intensity, and focus area. You can burn anywhere from 120-350 calories during a Pilates session.