The obvious and the not-so-obvious cardio options
Whether you want to build muscle, lose weight, get in shape, or stay healthy, regular cardio exercise is one of the best ways to reach your goals. Any exercise that gets your heart rate up and your blood pumping is usually cardio exercise, and there are plenty to choose from.
But to get the greatest benefit from cardio exercise, it’s a good idea to vary the type of exercise you perform. By changing things up, you’ll avoid repetitive stress injuries and ensure you’re working different muscle groups.
If you get your cardiovascular exercise in the gym, you may think you’re limited to the treadmill, elliptical machine, or stationary bike. Think again. Whether you’re tired of the same old thing or the gym is over-crowded and your favorite cardio machine isn’t available, here are some alternatives you may or may not have considered.
Probably the most obvious cardio machine at your gym, treadmills give you the option of jogging or walking. Because of the even surface of the treadmill, walking or running is easier on your joints than if you were to run outside. And since the treadmill is inside, you can still exercise in any weather. As an added perk, you can control the intensity of your workout by increasing the speed or elevation of the treadmill.
Another popular cardio machine found at the gym is the elliptical trainer. Gentler on your joints than the treadmill, the elliptical machine moves your body in a natural way. A great way to get cardio, improve endurance, and burn calories, the elliptical can also be adjusted to increase resistance and many have the option to move your arms along with your legs. Try going backwards to add variety and move your leg muscles in a new way.
A third common cardio stand-by at the gym is the stationary bike. Another option that’s easy on the joints, knees, and ankles while toning your legs, the stationary bike is great for cardio, cross-training for high-impact activities, or warming up before lifting weights. Try doing interval sprints on a bike or take a spin class for a serious challenge.
If you want to incorporate your upper body into your cardio routine to increase caloric burn and reduce the stress on your lower body, try a rowing machine. This machine mimics the action of rowing a boat in the water and the tension you’re required to pull through can be adjusted. This cardio exercise is a great workout for your shoulder, arm, core, and leg muscles.
It looks like a combination of the elliptical, stair climber, and treadmill. Another low-impact workout, the Arc Trainer requires you to step on two platforms and move your legs back and forth in a scissor-like motion. It includes options to increase speed and resistance.
To get your heart rate up while giving your legs a tough workout, try the never-ending stairs on the StepMill. To mix things up, stand sideways on the stairs to work your inner and outer thighs.
A great machine for a total body cardio workout, the VersaClimber isn’t for those just starting out. Doing this workout is like climbing vertically, working against resistance to push and pull your body up and down.
Other options for cardio at the gym include active rest sets (exercising between sets so there’s no down time while you’re waiting on the next weight machine), circuit training (continuous movement to the next workout station so there’s no down time), swimming, or an aerobics class of some sort.