Cardiovascular exercise improves blood circulation, helps strengthen the heart and lungs and works to remove excess blood sugar to help manage and prevent diabetes. Determining the best form of cardio exercise for you is dependent upon your needs, goals and abilities.
High-impact cardio exercise is performed when both feet are off the ground at some point during the exercise. Running, dancing and jumping are examples of high-impact exercise. This form of exercise is beneficial for healthy individuals in preventing osteoporosis. High-impact weight-bearing exercises help build bones and keep them strong, but if you have broken a bone because of osteoporosis or are at risk of breaking a bone, you should avoid high-impact exercises, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
Low-impact cardio involves at least one foot being placed on the ground at all times. Walking, low-impact aerobics, elliptical machines and stair-stepping machines are examples of low-impact exercise. Low-impact cardio is a safer option for individuals who have osteoporosis or who are at risk for breaking a bone. Cross training with low-impact exercise also can help reduce the risk for developing injuries associated with high-impact exercise such as stress fractures. Walking is one of the best and safest forms of cardio exercise. A regular daily walk will burn fat and help maintain normal blood circulation, particularly in the extremities.
Non-impact cardio exercise such as swimming and cycling do not have any benefit toward improving bone density and preventing osteoporosis, but can be beneficial in providing a safe alternative exercise for individuals recovering from an injury or have foot problems in which they are unable to exercise on their feet. Non-impact cardio is beneficial for improving heart health, weight loss and reducing the risk for developing disease.
Intensity level determines how hard you are working at an exercise. The current recommendation for achieving health benefits is at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise five days a week, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. Increasing the intensity of the exercise will offer greater health benefits, as well as burn more calories in a shorter amount of time. Because it's so demanding, high-intensity exercise is often performed in intervals such as sprinting for 30 seconds, followed by 60 seconds of walking. You can perform interval training by running, cycling, swimming or using an elliptical machine.