The evidence from studies is undeniable: Exercise is good for you. Not only does it help you live a better, happier life, it can help you live longer. In short, the human body functions best when movement and muscle engagement are part of your daily routine.
Judd NeSmith, founder of Serious Fitness and BestReviews fitness expert, said the heart is the body’s most important muscle, which is why it is essential to have regular cardio workouts.
Why it’s important to keep your heart healthy
“Heart health means improved blood flow, which will help you lower your blood pressure,” NeSmith said. “It will also help you increase blood flow from your heart, which can help you improve your cognitive functioning as you get older. A healthy heart can help decrease the risk of stroke and lower cholesterol.”
And, NeSmith said, “If you become consistent with a weekly cardiovascular routine — doing it for at least three or four days a week — you are going to have a lower resting heart rate. This means you’re probably going to increase your longevity. Also, the less your heart has to be working while you are resting, the healthier you are going to be.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agrees: “Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Being physically active can improve your brain health, help manage weight, reduce the risk of disease, strengthen bones and muscles, and improve your ability to do everyday activities.”
Risks of a sedentary lifestyle
“Sedentary behaviors have wide-ranging adverse impacts on the human body,” the Korean Journal of Family Medicine reports. In short, a sedentary lifestyle not only means decreased physical activity, but your body’s chemical reactions follow suit. You get more fatty tissue and chronic inflammation, and your risk factors for numerous diseases increase.
So even if you have no interest in becoming athletic, you owe it to yourself to engage in cardiovascular exercise to have the best life possible.
Best cardio equipment
“I love treadmills,” NeSmith said. “Especially during the colder months, or even in the warmer months when it’s raining outside.” They’re “ideal for walkers, joggers and runners,” he said, and good from beginners to experienced athletes. BestReviews found this NordicTrack treadmill the top product in the category, saying it’s “a feature-packed, high-end treadmill with a reasonable price tag.”
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NeSmith is also a fan of exercise bikes. This one from NordicTrack is the knd most people are familiar with because you see them in spin classes. Designed for longer bouts of cardio, anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, it includes several options, such as a rotating touchscreen and an automatic trainer, that make it a luxury workout.
Fan bikes are immediately identifiable because instead of a front wheel, they have a huge fan that produces resistance — the faster you pedal, the greater the resistance. NeSmith said these types of bikes are all the rage in gyms and excellent for cardio. This model from Schwinn is optimized for high resistance and low noise.
“I am a big fan of rowing machines,” NeSmith said. “My favorite brand is the Concept2 rower. This machine is another great piece of cardiovascular equipment that can be used for longer bouts of cardiovascular exercise. However, if you prefer, you can use it for shorter, high-intensity blasts for interval training.”
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NeSmith said not to forget ellipticals. These low-impact machines are suitable for beginners, but you can up the intensity as you develop more strength and stamina. This one from Bowflex has a compact design to fit more easily in homes. It offers 16 levels of resistance and delivers a full-body workout.
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“A lot of us sit for a living,” NeSmith said. “Then we go to work out, and we sit down on a piece of equipment. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of exercise bikes. However, I’m also a fan of people exercising while they are upright.” A stair climber or stepping platform, he said, gives you cardiovascular exercise while developing better balance and a stronger core. The Stamina X is an excellent option because it can be set to 12-, 16-, 20- and 24-inch heights.
“Jumping rope is one of the more efficient ways to burn a lot of calories,” NeSmith said. “A lot of my clients will jump rope for 30 seconds to a minute and then rest for that same amount of time, and repeat that sequence for five or 10 sets, and they get a phenomenal caloric burn. It also improves their heart health.” This one, lightweight and with ergonomic handles, is BestReviews pick as “Best of the Best” jump rope.
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Other exercise gear worth checking out
Cardio gear picked by the BestReviews staff include these:
- The Step Original Aerobic Platform is an adjustable step that can be set to 4-, 6- or 8-inch heights.
- If you already own a bike, the Kinetic by Kurt is a trainer that adapts to almost all bikes for indoor riding.
- Stamina makes a quality rower that has built-in wheels for easy storage.
- If you want to combine a little resistance training with cardio, the Cap Barbell enamel-coated cast iron kettlebell is a solid option.
- The Schwinn 290 is best for people who prefer to ride a recumbent exercise bike.
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Allen Foster writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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