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Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or completely new to getting fit, the benefits of cardiovascular workouts or ‘cardio’ are extensive and long-term. These include being sick less often, sleeping better, having a stronger and healthier heart, lowering blood pressure and also losing weight (so long as the appropriate diet is also followed). It’s all about keeping up with an on-going programme. Thirty minutes of brisk walking three times per week, is enough to maintain basic cardio fitness. For people who aspire to more and want a toned, fit and muscular body – home gym equipment may be the answer.
The treadmill is a ‘no excuses’ piece of equipment. Having this in the home means that rain, hail or shine, a person needs to commit to their workout. Compared with an outdoor running workout, treadmill workouts are not as effective. This is because the wind and other environmental factors like steep hills make it tougher to run outdoors. To mitigate against this, increase the incline on the treadmill during each programme, to emulate the changing conditions outside. In many cases, a range of different programmes can be selected, so instead of a flat line with 0.00 incline, opt for the tougher hill run. In May 2002, a Norwegian study by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, placed mice on a five week treadmill programme with an incline, and saw a significant improvement to VO2 max and running efficiency. Sadly, they didn’t make the Olympic team though.
Elliptical trainers appear a bit dubious looking. They are however, very effective training tools for all of the major muscle groups in the body. Indeed, in some cases it can actually be a better workout than a treadmill. Unlike the treadmill, the elliptical machine targets upper body, shoulders and arms, as well as the legs and buttocks. The feet stay on gliding platforms that offer low resistance on the joints. This makes them ideal for those with knee and ankle problems, as opposed to treadmills. Reversing the direction of rotation can give a terrific and thorough workout to the lower body.
Exercise bikes can be used and abused in various ways. In cases where people slowly pedal with a low resistance level, the benefits are minimal. Upping the resistance level and pedalling at a medium to hard rate, will give an extensive cardio workout. Although many people consider it to be rather dull compared with other machines, when used correctly, the benefits can be seen and felt.
Doing interval training with the bike will boost cardio fitness. So start off with quick bursts of 1-2 minutes, cycling as fast as possible and then a cooling down of 4 minutes with slow pedalling then repeat for 20 minutes or so. Slowly increase the time spent in fast mode, this will ensure that your fitness levels will increase rather than plateau off.
Getting the best cardio workout, involves being vigilant to changes in the body, open to trying new equipment and mindful of previous injuries. The most important thing is to stay in the game with regular workouts. There is no short cut or quick fix, rather it’s all about long term discipline to keep up with weight loss and fitness goals.