What is the best type of cardio training? It's the one you enjoy, whether alone or with a friend. (Credit: Getty Images)
What comes to your mind when you hear the words "cardio training"? It is any form of exercise done at low to moderate intensity that can help elevate your heart rate for a prolonged period. You can do this physical conditioning without gym equipment. In fact, among the best types of cardio workouts is bodyweight exercise – lunges, jump squats, push-ups, dancing and more.
A bodyweight exercise works the multiple muscles of your body at a continuous but rhythmic pace. You don't even have to spend an hour a day doing it to reap the benefits! You can feel your heart and lungs working hard in under three minutes or less, especially if you've been physically inactive.
Pick the right cardio training for you
The bodyweight moves for indoor cardio training are considered ideal for beginners. They can help strengthen your muscles, increase stamina and flexibility and help burn calories quickly.
If you enjoy dancing, depending on your choreography's difficulty level, you can take 120 to 150 steps a minute. That's about 7,500+ steps an hour! In addition, other aerobic exercises like jogging, swimming and cycling strengthen the heart, blood vessels and lungs.
The challenge of any cardio training or fitness regimen is finding activities you enjoy enough to continue doing for a long period of time. Variety can ensure you don't get bored and help take your endurance to the next level. Then, boost your self-motivation by asking family and friends to join your fitness journey.
Studies have backed the positive impact of emotional support in starting and maintaining fitness programmes. But research published in Health Psychology Journal has also noted social support can backfire. For example, someone is likely to back out from exercising when pressured by family and friends to work out or criticised for their choice of fitness activity.
Find a fitness buddy who is not only on board with your fitness journey but also excited to join you. Sometimes that someone isn't a family member or a friend. The AIA Vitality programme can set you up for success if you are looking for like-minded individuals.
Fun exercises you can do with friends
Don't let the lack of a park or time to meet at a fitness studio prevent you from working out with your friend. You can do it at each other's homes or go on your virtual chat and video app. Try these indoor cardio training moves that do not require any equipment.
Jumping jacks can get your heart rate up quickly, and you can do them anywhere. (Credit: Getty Images)
It's probably the first exercise you learned in Physical Education class at primary school. Jumping jacks are easy and do a lot to improve coordination, balance and flexibility.
How to do it:
1. Stand with your feet together and arms down.
2. Raise your arms to the sides and over your head, then spread your legs more than hip-width apart as you jump.
3. Jump to bring your feet together and arms down again.
How long: try to do as many jumping jacks as possible in one minute. One study has suggested that 10 jumping jacks (with 30 seconds of rest after each set) done twice daily provides bone-building benefits to premenopausal women.
How to avoid injury: slightly bend your knees when jumping up and down to avoid locking your knees.
Alternative training: march in place. Then, up the stakes by having your companion monitor you (and vice versa), tracking how many times you can bend and lift your knees to the hips.
Many athletes do squat jumps because the calves, glutes, hamstrings, core and quads get a good workout. Squat jumps are also an excellent way to strengthen your core and stamina.
How to do it:
1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands behind you. Bend at the knees to squat.
2. From the squat position, jump as high as you can, extending the hips and stretching the body straight. Throw your arms down, extending your elbows to the back as you jump.
3. Land on the balls of your feet, rolling backwards to your heels as you bend your knees. Flex your hips and trunk (chest, abdomen, pelvis and back) with your hands behind you.
How long: count how many you can do in a minute without rushing each repetition. Then, gradually build up.
How to avoid injury: wear running shoes to help absorb the shock when you land.
Alternative training: climb stairs for 10 to 15 minutes two or three times a day. You and a friend can do this while chatting.
Burpees are an exercise often used in high-intensity interval training (HIIT). They start with a squat thrust and end in a standing position.
How to do it:
1. Begin in a standing position and move into a supported squat (your knees touching your elbows or upper arms) with both hands on the ground.
2. From a supported squat, plant your palms with your arms extended on the mat. Kick your feet back into a plank position with your toes on the mat.
3. Return from the plank position to a supported squat.
4. Return to a standing position, extend your arms over the head and clap your hands.
How long: do as many sets as you can in one minute without rest and gradually increase to three minutes when you feel you have plateaued.
How to avoid injury: support your back by tightening your core (abs and belly button pulled inward) when you do a squat or plank. Do not arch your back when you have your arms extended in plank.
Alternative training: plant your palms on the mat, your wrists under your shoulders. Tighten your core and step the right foot back first and then your left.
Depending on your fitness level, you can do jumping jacks, squat jumps and burpees as one routine, spending one minute on each activity with a 10 to 15-second break in between.
How to warm up and cool down
Stretching after cardio training can improve flexibility and help release tension in the body. (Credit: Shutterstock)
Start these exercises at a low intensity to warm up for five minutes, then increase the pace and power. You can cool down the same way and with the same duration from vigorous to light intensity. Reserve the stretching after the cool-down.
If you notice that it takes a while to get your heart rate up, then it may be time to increase the intensity. Push yourself in speed, resistance or duration, but do so gradually. For example, if you started doing 10 minutes a day of jumping jacks, squat jumps and burpees, add only one to two minutes each week.
Can you do cardio weight training? Adding weight or strength training to your cardiovascular exercises will significantly improve your muscle strength and boost your metabolism. But pace yourself when doing cardio weight training by keeping these exercises six hours apart. Doing them one right after the other in a day is not advisable. Instead, you can do weight training twice a week. Cardio training is worth your time and effort, but it takes practice to make improvements. Just keep at it and don't beat yourself up if your progress is slow. You'll accomplish your goals eventually!
Any activity is better than none! So, start with light cardio training, like walking more, increasing the intensity as the months pass and the odds are you will live a healthier, longer, better life!
American Heart Association. 2018. Endurance Exercise [online] [Accessed on 15 June 2022]
University Sports Medicine of the University of Colorado Hospital. 2003. Training for Cardiovascular Fitness [online] [Accessed on 15 June 2022]
ACSM Health & Fitness Journal. 2013. High-Intensity Circuit Training Using Body Weight (Maximum Results With Minimal Investment) [online] [Accessed on 15 June 2022]
American Journal of Health Promotion. 2016. Effect of Two Jumping Programs on Hip Bone Mineral Density in Premenopausal Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial [online] [Accessed on 15 June 2022]
Gardner-Webb University. The Movement Analysis of a Jump Squat [online] [Accessed on 15 June 2022]
Health Psychology. 2014. Volume 33, No. 6, 501-504. The Role of Social Networks in Adult Health [online] [Accessed on 15 June 2022]
The British Medical Journal. 2016. A survey of social support for exercise and its relationship to health behaviours and health status among endurance Nordic skiers [online] [Accessed on 15 June 2022]