Tired of the same old exercise routine? Break out of the doldrums with fun cardio workouts that will get your heart pumping without the mind-numbing monotony of treadmills or stationary cycles.
The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention recommend at last 150 minutes (2 1/2 hours) of moderate-intensity exercise weekly - - - and by “moderate” they mean anything strenuous enough to increase your heart rate, respirations, and quantity of sweat.
So, yes, chasing your kids (or pets) around the park counts! However, knowing that you should exercise and actually doing it are two different things. In fact, the top two reasons most often given for not exercising are lack of time and the fact that it just isn't fun.
Fast and Fun Cardio Workouts
Since we know that the old theories of long workouts are being replaced with shorter, higher-intensity programs, time is no longer a strong excuse. After all, results have shown that it is now possible to get into shape in 20 minutes – or even less – a day. So, that means that most people forego exercising simply because they don't enjoy it.
There are workout buffs who love spending hours in the gym, but they are the exception rather than the rule. You might love the way being physically fit makes you feel, but the journey takes discipline and commitment.
The good news is that it doesn't have to all be boredom and drudgery. Your workouts shouldn't be just another task that you cross off your “to do” list. While you won't want to ban those traditional workouts altogether, there are more fun and interesting ways to get into shape. One of the best parts about working out is that you can take most of your exercises outside. Many professional groups have realized the trend and are offering aerobic, yoga, and even hula hoop sessions at outdoor facilities.
Remember, if it raises your heart rate, it's burning calories. So, find something you enjoy – or take up a new hobby – that will help you get into shape while also providing hours of fun and entertainment.
Mountain Biking: The ups and downs of rough terrain provide a great workout that
will get your heart pumping while also strengthening and toning your thighs,
calves, quads, and abs. Plus, uphill climbs will also engage the muscles in your back and shoulders. Cycling is a non-load bearing exercise so it will be easier on your joints with less risk of sports related injuries. If you aren't ready for the challenge of mountain terrain, regular cycling also offers great benefits, especially if you choose routes that include some hills.
Rock Climbing: While climbing actual mountains will give you the benefit of being outdoors and the challenge of dealing with unpredictable environments, it also poses more danger and risk of injury than indoor rock climbing facilities. Many people – even expert climbers – say that you can get a similar experience indoors, so if you are new to the sport, this may be a better option.
Hiking: Power walking is a great way to raise your heart rate and burn calories; but, hiking adds extra elements that can increase the intensity significantly. Navigating uneven or changing terrain can build stamina, improve muscle tone, lower blood pressure, increase bone density, and burn a whopping 370 calories per hour.
Downhill Skiing: Skiing offers a great cardio workout that tones the entire body and burns approximately 445 calories per hour. However, it can also be dangerous, so to avoid serious injury be sure to receive proper training and use the right equipment.
Cross-Country Skiing: This is a safe, low-impact exercise that works both the upper and lower body. If you like the winter, cross-country skiing is a great way to have some outdoor fun while also working up a sweat and toning your legs, arms, and back muscles.
Snowshoeing: Snowshoeing can burn more calories than hiking, biking, or running because you must lift your legs so high to move forward. Not everyone uses the poles, but by adding them in, you will be able to work both the upper and lower body. Snowshoeing is a low-impact exercise that is gentle on the joints while still providing a great workout for the quads, hamstrings, calves, arms, shoulders, and upper back. And, depending on the terrain, you may need to engage your abs to help maintain balance, so you will get the added bonus of tightening and toning this problem area.
Swimming: Many fitness trainers claim that swimming is one of the best cardio exercises because it burns a lot of calories, is easy on your joints, and tones the arms, legs, abs, and chest. You can simply do laps or take a fun class that will teach you water aerobics or synchronized swimming.
Dancing: Dancing engages the entire body, expends a lot of energy, and burns a huge amount of calories. It is just as effective as cycling or running for helping with weight loss, but it also improves balance, posture, and flexibility. Grab a partner and take some ballroom classes, learn the sexy salsa or samba, or take a Zumba class at your local gym. Or, put on some upbeat music and dance around your house for 20 minutes.
Hoola Hooping: This fun 50s activity is a good way to burn calories, increase heart rate, and tone that waistline. You can challenge a friend, have spin-off contests, or simply use the hoop while watching your favorite television show.
Rollerblading: This versatile exercise can be done indoors or outdoors and will help strengthen the legs while also providing a good low-impact cardio workout. The side-to-side swing motion requires you to engage abdominal and back muscles for an added benefit. Find an outdoor bike or rollerblading path or join a skating club.
Sports: Almost any sport will give you a great cardio workout, and you don't have to join a team or league to enjoy the things you love. Get a group of friends together at the beach and play a game of sand volleyball that can burn nearly 600 calories per hour. Even playing frisbee uses up 225 calories; playing soccer burns 520 calories; and a competitive hoop-shooting contest can use 215 calories.
Fun Cardio Workouts
Losing weight and getting into shape does not have to be boring or monotonous. You can find fun cardio workouts that will allow you to burn calories, raise your heart rate, and tone muscles all while doing something you enjoy.
I will continue to share ideas about diet and exercise that have helped me along the way. If you have any questions I can help you with, or if you have any ideas you want to share, feel free to contact me or visit our Q&A forum.