Simple muscle-building cannot address total fitness and any exercise regimen is incomplete without a cardiovascular workout. Almost anyone can incorporate cardio into their routine. Cardiovascular exercise can help you:
- Improve stamina
- Strengthen your immune system and reduce the risk of major illnesses such as heart disease and stroke
- Decrease body weight reducing stress on the joints and promoting movement
- Remain functional in the presence of injury and chronic pain
- Release endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers; reducing your need for pain medication
- Elevate mood
Most cardio exercises, however, put a lot of stress on the joints, especially the joints in your legs. High-impact exercises such as running, skipping and jumping, although effective in losing weight, can result in joint pain and are best avoided by those with compromised joints due to injuries or increased age. Alternating low-impact activities can sufficiently raise your heart rate and improve endurance levels without letting your joints take a toll. Here are a few exercises that go easy on the joints while providing you with a good cardiovascular workout:
- Walking: Though running is often recommended for cardiovascular fitness, walking is preferable to reduce strain on the joints. Make sure you have a good pair of shoes. Walking should be performed on a level surface either outside or indoors on a treadmill. Start slow and gradually build up your routine until you are walking two to three miles, three times a week. Speed walking is an excellent workout for the entire body.
- Cycling: Cycling is another recommended low-impact activity to improve cardiovascular fitness. Stationary cycling equipment usually comes with preloaded programs that offer variety and challenge.
- Water therapy or swimming: The buoyancy of the water reduces stress on the joints, improving mobility and making it easier to perform various exercises.
Elliptical trainers: These are special machines that produce low-impact, smooth gliding movements of the arms and legs. For those with joint conditions, they provide an excellent means of cardiovascular fitness.