The Three Best Cardio Exercises

During your Success Beyond Surgery journey, you’ll find that exercise is a key component in helping you to succeed. Following a balanced nutritional plan is a fantastic first step – because nothing else you do will have as much impact on your rate of success than what you eat – but you also need to incorporate exercise as a daily (or near-daily) habit.

For some people, cardiovascular exercise (cardio) is a dull and monotonous method of burning the calories we all want to maximize when we work out. Cardio exercise has many benefits – all of which are documented extensively on health and fitness websites. It doesn’t necessarily make DOING it much easier, but there is a lot of encouragement and comfort in the fact that when you are making time for cardio, you are giving yourself the opportunity to build strength, endurance and energy.

The three best cardio exercises that you can do for overall fitness and weight loss are:

–>> Swimming: Although this is not a super-hard exercise for some, it is great for the joints and muscles.  If you are starting your weight loss journey at a point where you can’t walk easily or jog (see below) then swimming might be a great way to get you exercising and get some calories burned. When you swim, your heart starts pumping more blood throughout your body, helping develop more power. Your endurance will also increase as you swim – and I’m not talking about Olympic-contender level swimming, either. Start right where you are! If you need help with stroke mechanics, then enlist the help of an instructor (perhaps a swim coach from a local school) or a physical therapist. You can also find lots of water-based exercises that you can do to build strength for swimming laps. During my teen years, I swam as much as a mile a day – 72 laps of a standard swimming pool – and it kept me fit and relatively lean. It was when I stopped swimming regularly that the pounds really started to pack on – and I wish I could swim again!

–>> Walking / Jogging: Regular walking and / or jogging each and everyday for a fixed period of time-approximately a half an hour – will give you more energy and help you burn fat. If you’ve never jogged before, or if its been a while and you are considerably heavier now than the last time you jogged, you’ll be better served by starting with walking.  Don’t feel as if you have to start out with a 30 minute session – especially if you’ve been inactive. Start with 5 or 10 minutes each day, and increase the time each week until you are at 30 minutes of straight walking.

Once you’ve reached that 30 min threshold in your walking routine, start increasing your speed so you cover more ground in the same 30 min time frame. Extending the time frame is fine if you have the space in your schedule, but trying to log an hour of exercise feels much more difficult than 30 minutes in a busy schedule. Once you’ve gotten 30 minutes at a faster speed to feel normal and expected, consider using a program like the Couch to 5K or another runner’s training program to move you to the next level.

These programs give you a defined workout each day and take approximately 12 weeks to move you up to a 5K (approx 3.1 miles). At that level, you could even start to plan to run a road race – and you SHOULD! Shoes are very important to this routine – don’t be afraid to go and be fitted for running / jogging shoes to help avoid injury.

–>> Sprints / Intervals: You can incorporate sprints and / or intervals into your walking or your jogging routine. Sprints are just what they sound like – a defined period of time where you move as fast as you can while still keeping good form and good mechanics. This means that your arms and legs are not flailing about in an uncoordinated fashion – you are just increasing the pace of your movement. At the end of a sprint, you’ll find yourself breathing harder – giving your cells much-needed oxygen – and you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment for performing so well.

Intervals alternate periods of sprinting with periods of slower, regularly paced movement. For a walker, this might mean speed-walking for a few blocks, then walking at your normal pace for a few blocks. You can also time your intervals – 30, 60 or 90 seconds per interval – for a change of pace and a strength builder. Over time, you’ll find that your “normal” pace will get faster because of the planned overload you put on your muscles by sprinting.

No matter what form of cardio you choose, it provides your body cells with much needed oxygen for repair, helps to build muscle tissue, increase endurance and energy levels, and helps you to sleep better.

Before starting any kind of exercise routine, always consult your physician and obtain medical clearance when necessary.

Have a great day!