What is the best cardiovascular exercise you can do? Hands down (or foot down) it has to be running. Yes, there are a lot of great exercises out there for burning calories like cycling, swimming, rowing, stair-climbing, and an Elliptical trainer. But running is still the undisputed king and here is why.
The King of Cardio
Running winds the title of best cardio exercise because it burns a high amount of calories and helps your metabolic rate stay stimulated for a longer period after the exercise session is over. Individually those are both great concepts, but together they are unbeatable. On average you can burn 600 calories an hour running. That is as much or more than any other cardiovascular exercise.
Also from a muscle standpoint, you work the quads, calves, hamstrings while running. There is also a secondary affect for the trunk, arms, and shoulders as well as the neck from the motion of your arms and stabilizing affect to your spine and head. It is very close to a complete body workout when you consider muscles being worked as well as the cardiovascular conditioning. If I had to pick just one thing to do to stay in shape it would be running.
A lot of people say, “I can’t run because…” and then say sore knees, it hurts their feet, they just can’t run long enough, or another excuse. Yes running is hard. Yes it can also be high impact and sometimes painful. But it might just be that you aren’t training correctly. Yes, that was me for a while as well.
About a year ago I was in the same boat about running. I hated it and it hurt my feet and knees. Plus I didn’t have much wind and could not run very far. Cardio was usually just the treadmill/stari climber/Elliptical machine at the gym. But I decided to take up running and just jumped right in and quickly injured myself. While I recovered from a freak back injury I decided to actually read a few books about running. Surprisingly they started off with misconceptions about running and how to deal with running injuries that are very common.
I was doing it Wrong
In a nutshell I had made a bunch of beginner mistakes:
- Improper footwear
- Lack of pre-running stretching
- Improper warm-up
- No basic program established
- Improper cool down
- Improper post-workout stretching
Wow, for someone so involved in fitness I pretty much was doing everything wrong. No wonder I was so horrible at running. But I kept reading and quickly learned all about my mistakes. In no time I had learned what to do and more importantly what not to do and was ready to start a training program. Since that point I have found a lot of enjoyment in running because of the many benefits of it as a cardio option.
Benefits of Running
- Great cardio workout – You can vary your intensity and terrain as well as distance ran to make a workout harder or easier.
- Easy to Do Anywhere – On a trip all I need are my running shoes and shorts along with some road or a good path to get a workout in.
- Great Scenery – I started running the paths near my house. When I got bored I expanded to parks and hiking areas. During the summer it is fantastic to get out and run trails and enjoy the outdoors. This makes me do more cardio that I would stuck inside a gym. During the rainy periods I simply stay at the gym and run on a treadmill.
- Other muscles get worked – Some muscles are obvious like quads and calves. But I also found my intercostals muscles get a great workout from the continual pumping of my arms and slight upper body twist.
Yes there are a lot of good cardio vascular exercises out there. Swimming and cycling both burn a lot of calories. But you also need more equipment to do those activities. For my money, running is something everyone who is serious about fitness should give a good try. Get a good book on running and take the time to learn the proper way to prepare. It is a great way to not only enjoy yourself, but also burn a heck of a lot of calories and keep lean.