Read any fitness or health article and you’ll see the same word repeatedly — cardio. Yes, we all know how important cardio workouts are for our cardiovascular health and general fitness. But not everyone knows what qualifies as a cardio activity. If this sounds like you, don’t despair.
These workouts aren’t that complicated, and they all have one thing in common — they raise your heart rate. The world of cardio gym workouts is available to even a true beginner. Need some ideas about where to start? These are the 10 best gym cardio workouts for beginners.
If you want to burn calories, shed those unwanted pounds, and strengthen and tone your leg muscles at the same time, get biking. But you don’t need to own a bicycle when you can head to your nearest gym. A stationary bike is one of the most well-known and loved pieces of cardio gym equipment.
You’ll find a few in every gym, and they’re really easy to use, even if you’ve never cycled in your life! Using a stationary bike may seem strenuous, but it’s actually a great, low-impact form of cardio. Listen to music while you cycle and you’ll soon pedal your way to fitness without even breaking much of a sweat.
Pedaling on a stationary bike isn’t the same as cycling on a bike outdoors. Traditional cycling gives your entire body a workout, whereas stationary bikes exercise leg and core muscles only. But you’ll get a great cardio workout without the hassle of transporting a bike to your nearest cycling paths.
Running On A Treadmill
Of course, running is the go-to for many gym enthusiasts and it’s easily accessible for beginners. No gym is complete without a treadmill, because it burns more calories than many other types of exercise equipment. Like most types of exercise equipment, it all depends on how you use it.
You can digitally set a treadmill’s speed and resistance to mimic your desired distances and inclines, on the control panel. All that’s left to do is to run. A treadmill also usually includes a warm-up and cool-down session at the start and finish of every session, to minimize the risk of injury or muscle cramps.
Running on a treadmill is easier than running on the road. It provides less impact than a hard road surface, and it’s completely even, unlike the bumpy roads and paths outdoors. The belt also assists with leg turnover. A treadmill gives you cardio workouts like outdoor running but with less strain or injury.
When you’re looking for gym cardio workouts as a beginner, you can’t go wrong with a step machine. These are so simple to use, that you may be forgiven for ignoring it completely when you first hit the gum. But don’t be fooled. A step machine can give you a great cardio workout and is totally beginner-friendly!
Sometimes also called a stair machine, or stepper, a step machine will target your glutes, quads, thighs, and hamstrings. And yes, it’ll help to strengthen your core, too. As with most gym equipment, a step machine can provide a low or high-intensity workout.
Unfortunately, a step machine doesn’t exercise the muscles in your upper body, as you use only really your leg muscles to operate it. But this is easily solved. You can get your upper body workout with a pair of free weights, before or after using the stepper. Or multitask and do both at once. It’s up to you.
Does the thought of rowing appeal to you, but you’re hesitant to go out on a lake or river? That’s not a problem. You can enjoy the amazing cardio benefits of rowing without going anywhere near the water. Rowing machines have helped gym goers get in shape for years, and they’re still as popular as ever.
Rowing doesn’t just exercise your arms. It also targets your legs, back, and that all-important ‘core’, the midsection muscular girdle that helps your stability, posture, and balance. If you’re looking to battle the belly bulge, this may be the one for you. Rowing is known for tightening abs and helping to shed fat fast.
As little as 15 minutes of rowing will give you a cardio workout you can be proud of. Rowing is not just a cardio workout, though. It also improves balance and strength. You can adjust your speed and intensity to suit your fitness levels.
Most gyms also have an elliptical machine. It’s a lot easier to use than it looks and can be a lot of fun, too. Older gym users who are hesitant about running on the treadmill are often encouraged to use an elliptical trainer instead. But this doesn’t mean that they won’t give you a good workout.
Elliptical machines are stationary exercise machines that incorporate a combo of walking, running, and stepping actions. The handles and pedals move in a smooth, orbital motion that makes it a winner with beginners and gym veterans alike.
They give your entire body a good cardio workout, with low impact. This also makes them popular with beginners as well as those with problems with their joints. Elliptical use can be as gentle or as energetic as you want. In fact, these machines can even be used as part of High-Intensity Interval Training.
High-Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, has been making quite an impact on the fitness world in recent years. This exercise regimen entails short bursts of energy (the high intensity) alternated with short recovery periods (the interval).
You’ll increase your oxygen uptake, reduce your risks of cardiovascular disease, and burn calories in next to no time with HIIT. With the guidance of a personal trainer for the initial session, HIIT can be suitable for beginners. Once you know what to do, you can create your own HIIT routines.
A HIIT workout can include some of the other activities on this list, for example, the stationary bike, stepper, or elliptical trainer, with other exercises like sprints or squats. HIIT routines vary, but the basic routine is like this: Perform the exercise hard and fast for 15–30 seconds, rest or slow down for a longer period, usually 1–4 minutes. And then repeat, up to a total of 15–30 minutes.
Swimming is so much fun, that most of us forget that it’s also a cardio workout recommended by the medical profession. Don’t stress if you don’t have a pool, and don’t live near the coast or any large bodies of water. Many gyms have beautiful, heated indoor swimming pools for gym members to use.
A few 30 to 45-minute sessions of moderate to vigorous intensity swimming weekly can even replace other forms of exercise. It’s a great all-around cardio workout. That’s why many community centers, even those for the elderly, often have an indoor pool. It’s usually even safe for people recovering from injuries.
Can’t swim? That’s not necessarily an issue, either. Gyms with pools sometimes offer swimming classes, too. Alternatively, ask about aqua aerobics classes. These are ideal for beginners, as the water provides resistance to the body without the need for other exercise equipment. No swimming is required!
Cardio Dance Classes
Who doesn’t love to go dancing? It’s sociable, and fun and can reduce stress at the end of a long work week. But did you know that dancing is also a great form of cardio exercise? Cardio dance classes in gyms capitalize on this, with high-energy dance routines set to catchy music.
Many gyms offer cardio dance classes, although they may have different names. Ask your local gym if they have them. They’re the best way to stay in shape if you’re not keen on gym equipment. Your only equipment is your body, although some classes may include the use of resistance bands or light weights.
You’ll get your heart pumping and your blood flowing, for better cardiovascular health and blood circulation. Cardio dancing also improves your strength, stamina, and flexibility. Dancing is also a good mood booster, raising your spirits even faster than it burns your calories.
Cardio calisthenics – if you’ve never heard of it, don’t worry. Calisthenics are essentially gymnastic exercises, primarily using your body weight for exercise. Cardio calisthenics includes the same types of exercise but can be quite high intensity, and therefore a great cardio workout.
Many gyms will offer this type of full-body aerobic workout, and little to no equipment is necessary. Cardio calisthenics will help you to build strength, tone your muscles, improve your cardiovascular health, and improve your flexibility and balance. That’s a lot of benefits using just your body weight as resistance!
It gets even better. Because you’re relying on your body weight for resistance, the chances of an injury are much less than with other types of cardio workouts. But there is a bit of a learning curve for beginners, so book a session or two with a personal trainer for guidance if you’re new to this form of workout.
Other Resistance Machines
Every gym will have its selection of weights-based resistance machines. These are generally used for weight training and are therefore used by gym members for increasing muscle definition and strength training. But they can also be used for a cardio workout.
By sticking with lighter weights and going for more repetitions, you can turn almost any piece of gym equipment into a cardio workout. If you’re unsure of how to do this, request the help of one of the gym staff. They’re there to assist you and will be happy to help.
Once you become more familiar with all the equipment, you’ll quickly learn which machines give you the best gym cardio workout. To prevent monotony, mix up your routine and alternate the use of different equipment. In this way, you’ll get a full-body workout and never get bored of cardio workouts again.
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