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Ever heard the saying that a “body at rest is likely to stay at rest?” Well, the opposite is true, too. Get a body moving, and it’s likely to stay moving, reaping a host of health benefits as well. Cardiovascular exercise, or “cardio,” is activity that uses the major muscle groups of a body and raises the heart rate for a sustained period of time. It includes everything from walking to swimming to dancing to household chores like sweeping and yard work.

Why cardio?

Cardio burns calories and helps maintain a healthy body weight. It can also help lower blood pressure; raise HDL, or “good,” cholesterol levels; and reduce the risk for heart disease and stroke.

Cardio is good for mental health, too. Regular cardio activity reduces the risk for depression and may help one sleep better. It can also keep one’s brain sharp as one ages.

Many ways to work in cardio

One wants to aim for at least 2.5 hours per week of moderate-intensity physical activity (like walking briskly) or 1.25 hours of vigorous-intensity activity (like jogging), or a mix of both.

But one doesn’t need to stick to the same cardio activity to get those minutes under one’s belt. Think creatively and one can fit different types of cardio into one’s day. Try these tips:

  1. Get those steps. Going to the grocery store? Park at the farthest end of the parking lot and add a couple of minutes of walking to the day.
  2. Grab some drumsticks. Try a cardio drumming class. This type of class lets one drum to music. This fun workout will get one’s heart rate up and can be modified for any fitness level.
  3. Dance it off. About 15 million people every week take Zumba, a high-energy dance class. No time for class? Cue up some music and take a five-minute dance break.
  4. Get up from that couch. Don’t spend most of the day sitting. Instead of sitting in front of the TV all night, walk in place or do a set of slow, controlled squats while catching up on favorite shows.
  5. Walk and talk. Grab a coffee to go, meet up with a friend, and get a walk in. (While keeping safe social distance, of course.) Catch up while sneaking in a workout.
  6. Get wet. Swimming is a fun way to move the body. Water exercise classes are a great option for joint or mobility issues, too.

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Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, BSN, MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2021
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