Treadmills, stair climbers and ellipticals tend to be the go-to methods of cardio training for many people. However, these are not your only options for high intensity cardiovascular training. Consider the cardio benefits of sports. They’re challenging, they’re fun, and they keep you engaged in such a way that often times you don’t even realize just how hard you’re working out. Here are some that offer an intense cardiovascular experience.
This is a massively underappreciated and underused exercise. The seemingly simple act of propelling yourself through water is actually among the most demanding exercises you can perform. Arm strokes require the activation of your entire upper body. Meanwhile, your legs are kicking to assist in your progress, and your core must remain firm to stabilize your body as it moves through the water. Literally, your entire body will become fatigued, and the pressure this puts on your lungs to keep taking in enough oxygen to fuel your effort is enormous. A swimming routine can tax your body several times more than your average running session, and in a fraction of the time and distance.
The benefits of cycling are already fairly well known within the fitness community. It puts tremendous strain on the largest muscle group in the body—your legs—which in turn requires large amounts of oxygen to be carried to those muscles. As with swimming, this results in an intense cardiovascular experience. Also, the ability to shift gears up or down allows you to keep your legs working at high resistance no matter what terrain you’re on. This will keep your legs working at or close to maximum capacity for the duration of your exercise. Indoor cycling classes offer similar benefits in safer, more comfortable environments. They also have the added feature of shoes with cleats which attach to the stationary bike pedals. This keeps your feet from slipping, and it also locks your legs into an optimal muscle conditioning position.
Basketball and Soccer
Running in intervals—alternating between jogging and sprinting—can accelerate your fitness gains much faster than just jogging. That’s why basketball and soccer are such great cardiovascular activities. They are both fast paced games that will keep you running on a consistent basis. In addition, the flow of the game will force you to increase and decrease your speed in a manner very similar to interval running. The team sport environment also adds a degree of competition that will motivate you to elevate your performance in a way that simple distance and time goals cannot duplicate.
In a world where many people have fallen victim to a sedentary lifestyle, any cardio exercise is a step in the right direction. But for those of you looking to take your fitness to the next level, try one of these entertaining and challenging sports to help get you there. You will not be disappointed with the results.
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