Cycling. Running. Dancing. Hiking. Kickboxing. When it comes to cardiovascular exercises, the options are endless to improve your overall quality of life. That’s especially true for women as they deal with multiple issues and life-altering changes that affect their health majorly. But, how often should you do cardio exercises to reap the health benefits, what is the impact of such a workout on different health goals and how does one’s age factor in?
TC46 connected with Pallavi Barman who is the Head of Marketing & Operations at HRX (actor Hrithik Roshan’s brand). Pallavi is a fitness enthusiast herself, and here she shares some vital cardio tips for beginners, the types of cardio exercises one can do, and how you can kickstart your cardio journey with ease.
Cardio Workout: The Basics
Most of us are familiar with fitness trackers and the parameters these devices track— namely calories, heart rate, distance, steps, and several more. While we know well how to read these, more often than not, we aren’t well-versed with what action should be taken post the reading or how best to manipulate one’s workout for maximum gains, and what benchmarks we should follow for reading and understanding of these variables.
One such variable is heart rate. The heart rate is measured in beats per minute. When your body is subjected to intense and fast action, also referred to as cardiovascular activity, this variable starts escalating, that is, you see a rise in the BPM as your breathing becomes faster and your heart starts racing.
Welcome to your cardio zone!
Yes, this is a cardiovascular activity condition. Simply put, activities which amp-up your heart rate thereby increasing your oxygen intake, are known as cardio exercises. The cardiovascular and the respiratory systems work together to deliver oxygen to all parts of the body, thereby having overall health benefits for the body. The advantage of cardio is that it strengthens your heart muscles, expands your lung capacity and pulls you into a ‘fat-burning zone’.
The Untapped Benefits Of A Cardio Workout
Over a period of time with the help of cardiovascular exercises, the heart becomes more efficient and pumps more oxygen-rich blood per beat to parts of the body. Now you can imagine what can this do to your brain, skin, and internal organs, thereby prolonging youthfulness. Regular cardio exercise coupled with good nutritional habits can result in fat loss very rapidly.
Other benefits of cardio include:
- Improved stamina, thereby rendering you more efficient and seemingly energetic to accommodate a lot of work.
- Sleep improvement is also aided by cardio exercises—people who do cardio regularly tend to fall off to sleep faster and get deeper sleep too.
- Cardio is also known to improve brain function because of the increased supply of oxygen-rich blood to the brain.
- It also results in an overall improvement in athletic performance.
These benefits are age agnostic so if you start early in your 20s, you will reap benefits in your 30s and 40s too. And if you started late, fret not, it’s one of the most effective tools for keeping your bone density healthy and joint mobility fluid. In short, cardio is one of the best options available to us to keep us agile and moving with ease with the bodily functions performing optimally.
Outlining Your Own Routine
I am of the belief that a fitness routine which combines cardio and strength training is always a superior one and yields better results in terms of fitness goals. In a 5-day week of training, 2 days of cardio and 3 days of strength training seems like a good distribution but for me, I combine both cardio and strength training on a daily basis, that is, a quick 5k run followed by 20-30 min of functional training works wonders for my body.
So one needs to identify their ‘sweet spot’ and adhere to a routine which suits them the best. Please note there is no “one fits all” formula available for a fitness regime. Everybody is differently engineered genetically, and hence the workout needs to be tailor-made to suit the same.
Types Of Cardio Exercises
The most commonly known cardio exercises to the world are running, (brisk) walking, cycling, swimming, jogging, skipping, but there are a bunch more which can be used to make an effective routine on days one doesn’t feel like depending on equipment or turf.
By combining the ones listed below, your cardio goals can be easily achieved for the day when sun or rain checks you from feeling adventurous.
At-Home/Anywhere Cardio Exercises
- Jumping jacks
- Bicycle crunches
- Side to side jump squats
- Plank shoulder and knee taps
- Hopping lunges
- Plank Scissors
- Mountain climbers
Beginner’s Tips: Choosing The Right Workout
Of these, the easiest ones are jumping jacks, mountain climbers, bicycle crunches, high knees, and hopping lunges and while helping you achieve the cardio goals they also work the core! So there you go, use a permutation and combination for the above and design your own sets and reps and burn them those calories in between your kids’ online classes or meals in the comfort of your room! 30 min to 45 min will result in approx a 200 calories burner for you.
This routine is most suited for first-timers because these exercises aren’t skill-based, less injury prone and can be done without the supervision of a trainer. The forms are available aplenty online for one to observe carefully and implement. You can maintain your speed, intensity, rep counts and control the level of rigour you want to achieve so this, to my mind ladies, is a great starting point for getting used to cardio at home.
Level-Up With Ease
As you advance in your stamina levels, which can be understood by hearing your breathing rhythm, we can scale up the cardio routine with complex exercises like Burpees. Burpees are my personal favourite so much so that on days I am pressed for time, I just shoot out for a 100 burpees and trust me, that leaves me in a sweat pool gasping for breath.
A step-up cardio routine can look like the one shown below which increases the reps per set in progression and maybe is timed too.
So it can look like running a 5k under 30 min
- 10 burpees
- 20 mountain climbers
- 30 hopping lunges
- 40 burpees
- 50 mountain climbers
- 60 hopping lunges
And so on.
You can improve your cardio prowess slowly and eventually by performing for time. This trick definitely ups your performance because you are pushing the envelope and nudging yourself towards speed and intensity.
If you wish you level up your cardio performance, include theses moves in your routine
- Hopping lunges
- Box jumps
- Plank hold (strengthens the core)
How To Tailor Your Cardio Workout
While my counsel may sound achievable or interesting or exciting, the serious word of advice and caution here is to tailor-make your cardio routine based on the three I’s:
- Your own Interest, because that will keep you motivated
- Your optimum Intensity (you know your heart and lungs like no one else)
- Your Intent (it should be in line with your overall fitness objective e.g. my Intent these days is to improve my VO2 max with cardio for my level of fitness)
A good cardio workout is one which keeps you engaged, doesn’t seem daunting and is fun every time to get to it – running, swimming, cycling are some of my favourite whole-body cardio moves. They work the entire body while being so much fun, with or without company I thoroughly enjoy the three above for the view, fresh air, open skies and adventure. These exercises pack along.
Women & Fitness: The Need For Cardio
Lastly, hopping onto my most favourite topic, ladies, exercise after all controls and regulates our hormonal health. It’s a known fact that exercising reduces Estrogen in our systems. This in turn works on reducing the menstrual flow. With lowered menstrual flow, cramping and the pain associated with menstruation is lowered. Conditions like PCOS and Endometriosis can be very painful owing to the irregularity and heaviness of the menstrual cycle. These can’t be cured or terminated but most definitely can be controlled by exercising.
If your body is conditioned to working out frequently, you will observe your menstrual cycle falling back in order too. I, for one, used to pop pills and sit with hot water bags feeling miserable for the first two days of my cycle but that was before I turned into a fitness enthusiast. Since the time exercise became an integral part of my lifestyle, I haven’t popped any medicines or gotten lost on dates. I can almost craft a calendar with the accuracy of my dates. So get those bodies moving because for us women working out isn’t just for vanity but truly for instilling a sense of sanity.
When you spend the 30-40 min kicking up some endorphins, you come back to your family and kids and job and home and the world at large smiling and more satisfied and energised.
You can sleep for fewer hours but trust me, the quality of sleep is better. These parameters have an overall calming effect on your mental health and personality.
So gear up ladies and if this cardio sesh helps you write in and we will discuss a few more allied techniques. HIIT, maybe?