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Cardiovascular (cardio) workouts for weight loss

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What is cardio?

Cardiovascular exercise, more commonly known as cardio, is an activity that raises your heart rate, makes you sweat and breathe heavily. To strengthen your muscles you need to use them; and the heart is a muscle that can be strengthened with regular exercise.

Types of cardio include; walking, swimming, running, cycling, weight lifting and HIIT circuit training to name a few - the list is endless! All of these exercises will help to improve your fitness, health and if your aim is weight loss they can help you to achieve this too. Playing a game of football in the garden or taking the stairs at work can be considered cardio as well, as long as your heart rate is elevated.

Is cardio good for weight loss?

If your goal is weight loss, then cardio is a great element to add to your healthy eating and exercise routine. In order to lose weight we need to burn more calories than we can consume and this is where a cardio workout or activity steps in. It’s also a good idea to choose a sport, gym activity or exercise that you love and enjoy, or perhaps one you can do with friends. This way you’ll be more inclined to keep doing it and others will help to motivate you. Also build exercise into your daily life, making a few simple switches can help you to shift the pounds, why not get off the bus a stop early or park further away in the car park?

What is the best cardio machine for weight loss?

If you decide to join a gym or if you already workout at one, there are plenty of classes and machines that can allow you to reach your weight loss goals. It’s important that you chose an activity or machine that you enjoy as this will keep you going back to the gym rather than doing one session and never returning.

Depending on the gym you go to, there might not be one machine that is better than the rest, and finding the best cardio equipment is completely personal, you might like running on the treadmill, or you might prefer sweating it out on the rowers. As long as your heart rate is elevated and you are out of breath then your cardio session will help you to lose weight.

You might also be able to go to a gym that also has a swimming pool – swimming is a great cardiovascular exercise. Not only does it work every muscle and increase your heart rate but it can also help you to relax after a long day of work. Swimming can also strengthen you core, build up your stamina and improve your flexibility.

What cardio can I do at home?

If you don’t like the idea of going to a gym to complete your cardio workouts, then don’t worry. There are plenty of exercises you can do at home to help you on your weight loss journey. Walking is a great form of cardio that can be done anywhere, and can also be incorporated into your daily life, as can cycling. Taking the stairs at work or around town could burn more calories per minute than jogging*, getting you closer to your weight loss goals with every step.

Best cardio to lose belly fat

The following workouts target your stomach and will help to strengthen your core muscles. Once you’re properly warmed up, aim to carry out the following set in a ten-minute ab workout:

  • Stomach crunch – this involves laying flat on your back with your knees bent and feet touching the floor. Your hands should either be touching your legs, chest or behind your head. Slowly move your body upwards towards your knees and hold for a few seconds. You should feel tension in your tummy muscles.
  • Oblique crunch – get into the same position needed for a stomach crunch, and then roll your knees together over to one side. Move to and from this starting position multiple times on each side. You should feel tension in your side tummy muscles.
  • Plank – this position requires you to lie on your front, using your arms and toes to hold you up. Your legs and hips should be level and still. When you hold this position, your abs should be contracted, with tension felt throughout your front torso and legs.
  • Side plank – similar to a front plank, use your elbow to prop yourself up on one side, straighten your torso and leg and hold the position before repeating on the other side.
  • Stomach crunch with raised legs – lie flat on your back with your arms placed across your chest and legs raised in the air (knees bent). Slowly pull your knees into your chest, hold and repeat.

What is HIIT and how does it work?

HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training. If you prefer your workouts to be more intense and shorter, then HIIT might be for you. HIIT cardio focus on high intensity and high impact exercises that get your heart pumping, such as sets of jumping jacks, lunges, and burpees. The NHS has some 10 minute cardio blasts that you can follow in your sitting room or garden, why not get the whole family involved and set up a mini boot camp?

Should I do cardio or weights for weight loss?

Combining the two forms of exercise will help you to burn calories, lose fat and tone your muscles. You’ll also improve your overall fitness, energy levels and wellbeing. Cardio such as running burns more calories than weight lifting; however resistance training (weights) builds muscle helping you to lose weight and tone up simultaneously. The two together paired with healthy eating is the ideal fat loss regime that will allow you to reach your weight loss goals.

  • Is cycling good for weight loss?

    Yes, riding your bike burns calories, whether you’re commuting to work or cycling round the park, as long as you are burning more calories than you are consuming you will lose weight. Cycling can also help to strengthen your muscles and lungs while improving your overall wellbeing.

  • Is there a cardio weight loss plan I can follow?

    The NHS recommend that everyone does 150 minutes of physical exercise each week, this could be three gym sessions a week that include 20 minutes of running, 15 minutes of rowing and 15 minutes on a stepper machine. You might not want to go to a gym; instead you could swim or walk – whatever you do just make sure your plan includes exercise that will raise your heart rate.

  • What can I include in a cardio workout?

    A cardio workout can focus on any activity that gets your heart rate pumping, for some this might be running, a brisk walk or a circuit at the gym. If you want to pair your workout with weight training, then try lunging while holding kettle bells or squatting while holding a weight.

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References

*www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/free-fitness-ideas/#stair-climbing
www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/10-minute-home-cardio-workout
www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/free-fitness-ideas
www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/exercise-health-benefits