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Tips for the Most Effective Cardio Workouts

As much as we would like to think cardio is as simple as hopping on a machine and chugging away until we are tired, hungry, or just want to go home, there is more to it than that. Use these nine tips to enhance your cardio, build your strength, lose some weight, and protect yourself from injury. 


Do not forget to warm up and cool down

This is essential to maintaining your mobility and flexibility while protecting you from injury. For five to ten minutes, gradually raise your heart rate at the beginning of a workout and lower it after. You can do this by starting and ending your cardio with a casual pace of the cardio of your choice. 

Try out this jump rope challenge

Start by doing a basic jump for five minutes, then jump twice as high and turn the rope so it passes under your feet twice before you land. While it will take patience, power, and timing, you will burn about 26 calories per minute. 

Do not put the cruise on your cardio

Increase your intensity by doing intervals. Start with a five-minute warm-up, then alternate one to two minutes of activity at a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) of seven or eight out of 10, followed by two to four minutes of lower-intensity periods, RPE of three to four. Repeat four to six times. 

Bring some weights into it

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Combine cardio and sculpting with this 10-minute workout. Step on the treadmill holding a three- to five-pound dumbbell in each hand. Set the speed to a brisk walk and do a 60-second set of each shoulder presses, bicep curls, triceps extensions, front laterals, side laterals, and standing tricep kickbacks, all one after another as you walk. It is both a challenging upper-body workout that also will get your blood flowing. Do this two to three times a week and work your way up to doing four-minute sets. 

Sprint it out

If you are not training for a marathon, skip the slow, long-distance running – sprinting builds more muscle. Begin running and add a few 10- to 60-second sprints to your run, slowing down just enough to catch your breath between them. 

Try the talk test

Unless you are doing high-intensity intervals, if you cannot speak a sentence or two with each breath, you are pushing yourself too hard. 

Jump around

If you are looking to lose weight and build muscle, you will have to add some strength training to your routine. Try plyometric box jumps to improve your leg strength and cardiovascular stamina while targeting your hamstrings, quads, and glutes. Start from a standing position, explosively jump to the middle of the box, then jump back down. Repeat 20 times. 

Watch the clock

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found women who clocked at least 200 cardio minutes a week for 18 months lost nearly 14 percent of their total body weight. Those who only racked up fewer than 150 minutes reduced their weight by less than five percent. 

Take a seat

Add wall sits to the end of every run to strengthen your hamstrings, quads, and glutes while improving your endurance and speed. To do a wall sit, lean against a wall with your feet shoulder-width apart, then squat until your knees are bent at 45 degrees. Hold for 30-60 seconds and slowly work up to doing 10 sets. You can add in additional challenges by including heel raises: Lift your right heel, then the left, the both together twice.