Cardiovascular, or aerobic, exercise is characterized by moving the body in a repetitive motion with little to no added resistance. Multiple muscle groups still get worked and this type of training helps burn calories and improve aerobic capacity. Running is a form of high-impact cardio that can be done on a treadmill or outdoors. If this is not for you, there are numerous other forms of cardio to do to get your daily exercise. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, adults gain substantial health benefits from two and a half hours a week of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity, or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous physical activity.
Elliptical training is a type of full body cardio that is also low-impact. Foot platforms and hand-held poles are moved back and forth in a smooth, gliding motion to do this exercise. This is similar to cross-country skiing. Being that your upper and lower body work in tandem you get a sufficient workout in a short amount of time. The main muscles that get targeted with elliptical training are the glutes, quads, hamstrings, chest, back and triceps. A typical 30-minute elliptical session for a 180-lb. person can burn nearly 380 calories.
Stair climbing is a low-impact form of cardio done on a stair machine that looks like a small staircase. To do this form of cardio, you simply start the machine and continually walk the stairs that revolve around. Being that you are constantly stepping vertically with your feet, your glutes get a good workout on this machine. You can also use a basic set of stairs to get your cardio. Simply run up and down one set or find a location that has multiple sets of steps.
Rowing is a form of cardio that, like elliptical training, works your upper and lower body. It is done on a rowing machine, or rower. To perform the exercise, sit on the seat of the machine, place your feet on the angled platform and grab the handle with both hands. Steadily push off the platform, pull the handle toward your chest and repeat. You are simulating the same rowing motion you would experience in a boat on the water. The main muscles involved with rowing are the glutes, quads, hamstrings, back and biceps.
Swimming is done in a pool, pond or lake and it works multiple muscles while burning calories. It also has zero impact which makes it a good form of exercise if you have joint issues. Water aerobics is another form of cardio that is done in the water. Multiple movements are made with the legs and arms with body weight alone or special underwater weights.
Jumping rope is done by holding two handled ends of a rope and circling it around your body in a repetitive motion. Every time the rope moves down to the floor, jump over it. To increase the resistance on your muscles, use a rope with weighted handles.
Walking is a low-impact form of cardio that can be done on a treadmill or outdoors. To increase your intensity, walk up hills or alternate your speeds from fast to slow. Even though walking is less intense than running, it is still efficient at burning calories. According to the Mayo Clinic, a 200-lb. person can burn 346 calories walking at 3.5 mph for 60 minutes.