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Innovative Cardio Workouts: How to Make Your Heart Love You

Whew, cardio, right? It’s the thing that health gurus can’t stop harping about.

Lorin Ledger
14 min readJul 1, 2023


But what does it mean for you?

Reminds me of my journey, about eight years ago, when I left the comforts of Canada. I found myself standing in the heart of Beijing, ready to transform my life.

I decided to confront my reality head-on. Cardio became my guiding light. The goal? An ambitious one: signing up for an Olympic-distance triathlon.

Are you ready to start your own transformation? As we journey through this article, I hope to show you how I made my heart fall in love with cardio.

Are you ready to do the same?

Understanding Cardio

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Unlocking the Power of Cardio: What It Means for Your Health

Navigating the city of Beijing, my bicycle was my passport to a healthier life.

I discovered that cardio was more than just burning calories. It was about unlocking my body’s potential and leading a healthier, happier life, protecting my body from villains like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

But what could cardio mean for your life? Is your body asking for such a transformation?

Indeed, the American Heart Association suggests that regular cardio activity can significantly decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Why Cardio is Essential for a Balanced Lifestyle

Cardio brought balance to my life. It was a bridge between my body and mind, enhancing the thrill of speeding past ancient temples and ultramodern skyscrapers.

How can cardio bring balance to yours?

Starting Your Cardio Journey

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Cardio and Its Impact on Your Physical Health

Within the first six months of cycling and running around Beijing, I shed 40 pounds. My heart grew stronger, my blood pressure dropped, and I felt a vitality I hadn’t experienced in years.

What could six months of cardio do for you?

A 2013 study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that regular cardio can reduce blood pressure and lower the risk of heart disease.

When you break a sweat, you’re doing more than just getting hot. You’re kickstarting a chain of events that strengthens your heart, lowers your blood pressure, and regulates your blood sugar.

Can you feel that power within you?

Cardio’s Role in Mental Well-being

Just as physical changes became apparent, so did the mental ones. Lower stress levels, better sleep, and an improved mood became my new normal.

In fact, a meta-analysis of 25 studies found that people who do regular physical activity have up to a 30% lower risk of depression.

Are you ready to make cardio an essential part of your life too?

What the Science Says: How Much Cardio Do You Really Need?

At this point, you’re probably asking, “How much cardio do I actually have to do?”

The answer lies in understanding the 150-Minute Rule, finding your personal cardio baseline, and appreciating the impact of endorphins, the ‘feel-good’ chemicals released during cardio.

Unpacking the 150-Minute Rule

You’ve probably heard of the magic 150-minute rule. That’s about 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

Sound like a lot?

Well, that’s only about 2% of your entire week. Heck, you could be getting in your cardio while binge-watching your favorite Netflix show!

This guideline aligns with the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

Remember, you’re not in competition with anyone else, just the you of yesterday.

The Runner’s High and Beyond: Understanding the Impact of Endorphins

Endorphins. They’re what make us feel fantastic during and after a workout, and they’ve been my secret weapon in sticking with cardio.

Each time you engage in a cardio workout, your body responds by releasing these ‘feel-good’ chemicals.

Think of it as a fireworks display inside your body, lighting up your mood, reducing stress, and even easing symptoms of depression.

And the beauty of it all is, the more regularly you work out, the more frequently your body gets these endorphin ‘treats’. It’s a long-term improvement to your mental wellbeing. This study, A runner’s high depends on cannabinoid receptors in mice, describes how this works.

Types of Cardio Exercises

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A Fresh Approach to Cardio: Broadening Your Exercise Horizons

Just as Beijing offered opportunities to broaden my cardio horizons, where you live might offer a different palette of activities.

Think outside the box — or in this case, the treadmill!

A pick-up game of basketball, a brisk hike, or even a swim! There are exciting cardio exercises that can turn your workout from drudgery into delight.

Below are14 examples of cardio workouts for you.

You can do these cardio workouts at home, at the gym, or in your favorite park. These are cardio workouts that help with stamina and help you lose weight.

Don’t worry. Not all these cardio workouts include running, and some of them are great for seniors.

But the 15th? Well, that’s where you come in. It’s your journey, after all, so choose the right cardio exercise for you.

Maybe you love the intensity of boxing or the calm rhythm of swimming. Maybe you enjoy the camaraderie of team sports or the solitude of a long run.

The key is to find something you enjoy and stick with it.

15 Exciting Cardio Exercises to Get Your Heart Racing

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Exercise 1: Rediscover the Joy of Jumping Rope

Remember the carefree days of jumping rope in the schoolyard? It’s time to bring back the joy of jumping!

Intensity Level: High

Duration: 10–15 minutes

Equipment Needed: Jump rope

How to Jump Rope:

  1. Stand upright, holding the handles of the jump rope at waist level, one in each hand. The rope should hang behind you.
  2. Swing the rope up and over your head, using your wrists and forearms, not your entire arms.
  3. As the rope comes in front of you, jump just high enough to let the rope slide under your feet. Land softly on the balls of your feet. Repeat.

Video: How to Jump Rope for Beginners

Exercise 2: Dancing Your Way to Health

Forget the gym — dance your way to fitness right in your living room!

Intensity Level: Moderate to High

Duration: 20–30 minutes

Equipment Needed: None

How to Boogie (er, I Mean Dance):

  1. Clear a space in your living room, put on some upbeat music you enjoy.
  2. Start moving to the beat, combining steps and movements that feel natural and fun.
  3. As you get comfortable, incorporate larger movements, engaging your whole body. Keep changing movements to maintain variety.

Video: Dance Workout for Beginners

Exercise 3: Score Health Benefits with Organized Sports

Join a team, score goals, and boost your health.

Intensity Level: Varies

Duration: Varies

Equipment Needed: Depends on the sport

Getting Started with an Organized Sport:

  1. Join a local team or gather some friends for a friendly match. Start with a warm-up including some light running and stretching.
  2. Learn the basic rules of the game. Begin playing, focusing on passing the ball and communicating with your team.
  3. Try to keep moving throughout the game, alternating between running, walking, and sprinting.

Video: A Guide to Playing Soccer

Exercise 4: Power Walking: Cardio at a Steady Pace

Slow and steady wins the race with power walking.

Intensity Level: Low

Duration: 30–60 minutes

Equipment Needed: Suitable footwear

How to Get Started with Power Walking:

  1. Start walking at a normal pace to warm up. Keep your back straight and swing your arms in rhythm with your steps.
  2. Gradually increase your speed until you’re walking faster than your normal pace but not yet jogging. Push off your toes and keep your strides short and quick.
  3. Maintain this brisk pace, focusing on your breath and posture. Cool down by slowing your pace towards the end.

Video: Power Walking Technique

Exercise 5: Cardio Workouts for Swimmers

Take the plunge and enjoy a full-body workout.

Intensity Level: Moderate to High

Duration: 30–45 minutes

Equipment Needed: Swimwear, pool

How to Start Swimming for Cardio:

With this one, it’s suggested you join a swim team. Masters swim clubs can be found almost everywhere with schedules that fit the average 9–5 worker.

If you would rather swim alone, here’s a simple three-step process.

  1. Warm up by swimming two to four lengths of the pool at a slow, easy pace. You could use the freestyle or breaststroke, which are common and comfortable for most people.
  2. Increase your intensity by swimming a few lengths as quickly as you can, using the freestyle stroke. This increases your heart rate, turning your swimming session into a cardio workout.
  3. Practice interval training. For example, swim four lengths at a high-intensity pace, then rest or swim slowly for one length. Repeat this pattern for the duration of your workout. Interval training is an excellent way to boost your cardio fitness.

Video: 3 Swim Workouts for Beginners

Exercise 6: Boxing for a Power-Packed Workout

Throw punches, dodge hits, and get in the best shape of your life.

Intensity Level: High

Duration: 30–45 minutes

Equipment Needed: Boxing gloves, bag (optional)

How to Get Started in Boxing:

This is a difficult sport to start alone. The best way to get started is with a coach. We suggest you find a local gym and find someone who is willing to work with you. Personality matters here, so interview a few coaches and go with the one who you get along with best.

You can also do it alone, but don’t expect your technique to be very good. To do it alone, here are some simple steps to follow:

  1. Put on boxing gloves. Stand in front of a heavy bag or in open space for shadow boxing.
  2. Assume a boxing stance with your hands up, protecting your face, and one foot slightly in front of the other.
  3. Practice basic punches — jab, cross, hook, and uppercut. Remember to keep your hands up and move around your space.

Video: 15 Minute SHADOW BOXING Workout for BEGINNERS

Exercise 7: Bounce Back to Fitness with Trampoline-ing

Defy gravity, have fun, and get fit.

Intensity Level: Moderate to High

Duration: 20–30 minutes

Equipment Needed: Trampoline

How to Bounce:

For this one, you will need a spotter. Do it alone at your own peril. Personally, I find trampolining scary. Here are the steps you and your buddy can follow (one at a time).

  1. Step onto a trampoline carefully. Start by walking or lightly bouncing to find your balance.
  2. Begin jumping, focusing on landing in the center of the trampoline each time.
  3. As you get comfortable, increase the height of your jumps, maintaining control and balance.

Video: Trampoline Basics 15 MIN Rebounder Workout | Beginner Cardio

Exercise 8: Cycle Your Way to Cardio Fitness

Pedal your way to health and happiness.

Intensity Level: Moderate

Duration: 30–60 minutes

Equipment Needed: Bicycle

To Start Cycling:

Cycling clubs exist all over the place. I once cycled with a club just outside of Accra, Ghana. Some of the members were on their country’s Olympic team. If I can find one there, I’ll bet you can find one where you are. You can also bike alone, on a stationary bike at a gym, or in a spin class.

Here are the basic steps for getting started.

  1. Start with 5–10 minutes of easy cycling to warm up your muscles. Maintain a slow, steady pace.
  2. Once warmed up, increase your intensity. This could be by cycling at a higher speed, or by setting a higher resistance if you’re on a stationary bike. Your breathing should be quickened, but you should still be able to hold a conversation.
  3. Incorporate interval training into your cycling workout. For instance, cycle as fast as you can for 1 minute, then slow down to a moderate pace for 2 minutes. Repeat this cycle for the duration of your workout. This kind of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can be an effective way to improve your cardiovascular fitness.

Video: Stationary Bike Workout for Beginners | 20 Minute

Exercise 9: Hiking for Heart Health and Happiness

Climb mountains (literally!) and reap the cardiovascular rewards.

Intensity Level: Moderate

Duration: Varies

Equipment Needed: Hiking shoes, backpack, water, snacks

How to Get Your Hiking Books Dirty:

  1. Choose a suitable trail for your fitness level. Begin your hike with a brisk walk to warm up.
  2. As you progress, maintain a steady pace, taking time to rest and hydrate.
  3. As your stamina improves, tackle steeper inclines for a more intense workout.

Video: Hiking 101 for Beginners | Useful Knowledge

Exercise 10: Row Your Way to Improved Cardio Fitness

Get on board with one of the most effective cardio workouts.

Intensity Level: High

Duration: 30–45 minutes

Equipment Needed: Rowing machine

How to Get Started with Rowing:

  1. Sit on the rowing machine, securing your feet on the footrests. Grasp the handlebars.
  2. Push off using your legs, then lean back slightly, pulling the handlebars to your lower chest.
  3. Return to the starting position in a controlled manner by extending your arms, leaning forward from the hips, and bending your knees.

Video: Rowing Machine: Basic Technique

Exercise 11: Hoop into Shape with Hula-Hooping

Spin into shape with this fun and effective workout.

Intensity Level: Moderate

Duration: 10–30 minutes

Equipment Needed: Hula hoop

How to Get That Hula-Hoop Spinning:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a hula hoop around your waist.
  2. Push the hoop to start it spinning.
  3. Keep the hoop spinning by moving your waist in a forward-and-back or side-to-side motion.

Video: How to Hula Hoop for Total Beginners

Exercise 12: Walking: The Underrated Cardio Powerhouse

Step by step, walking can lead you to better health.

Intensity Level: Low

Duration: 30–60 minutes

Equipment Needed: Suitable footwear

One Foot, Then the Next:

  1. Stand upright and begin walking at a relaxed pace to warm up.
  2. Gradually increase your speed, swinging your arms and taking longer strides.
  3. Maintain a brisk pace, focusing on your breath and posture. Cool down by slowing your pace towards the end.

Video: FAST Walking in 30 minutes

Exercise 13: Jumping Jacks: Classic Exercise, Impressive Benefits**

Go back to basics with this classic cardio exercise.

Intensity Level: Moderate to High

Duration: 5–10 minutes

Equipment Needed: None

How To Jump, Jack:

  1. Stand with your feet together and arms at your sides.
  2. In one motion, jump and spread your legs while swinging your arms out and above your head.
  3. Jump back to the starting position, returning your arms to your sides. Repeat.

Video: How to do Jumping Jacks

Exercise 14: Step Up Your Cardio with Stairs

Stair climbing: it’s cardio that’s right under your feet.

Intensity Level: Moderate to High

Duration: 15–30 minutes

Equipment Needed: Stairs

How to Step Up Creatively:

  1. Stand at the bottom of a flight of stairs. Start by walking up and down to warm up.
  2. Transition to running or brisk walking up the stairs, using the railing for balance if needed.
  3. Walk down the stairs to avoid joint impact. Repeat the process for the desired number of sets.

Video: Cathy Morenzie — 5 minute beginner cardio. workout using your staircase

The 15th exercise?

Well, that’s where you come in. You can create your own cardio workout plan.

Your cardio routine should be unique to your lifestyle and preferences. Here’s how to personalize your routine, from the Mayo Clinic: How to start a fitness program.

Here’s a summary of best practice steps to get started:

  1. Assess Your Fitness Level: You need to know your current fitness level to understand your capacity and set reasonable goals. This might involve tracking how long you can walk or run, measuring your pulse rate before and after exercise, or simply considering how physically active you’ve been up until now.
  2. Identify Your Interests: Consider what kind of activities you enjoy. Do you like the adrenaline rush of high-intensity exercises or prefer slower, steady-state activities? Do you love being outdoors, or would you rather work out in the comfort of your home or a gym?
  3. Choose Your Exercise: Based on your interests, select an exercise from the list provided or find another activity that gets your heart rate up. This could be anything from cycling or swimming to dance workouts or hiking.
  4. Set Realistic Goals: Start with short, achievable goals. For example, you might aim to do 15 minutes of moderate cardio three times a week. As your fitness improves, you can gradually increase the duration and frequency of your workouts.
  5. Create a Schedule: Consistency is key when it comes to fitness. Make a weekly schedule that designates specific times for your cardio workouts, and try to stick to it as closely as possible.
  6. Get Started: Begin your chosen exercise at a pace that feels comfortable. It’s important to start slow and gradually increase intensity as your body adjusts. Remember, it’s better to have a longer workout at a moderate pace than a short one where you burn out quickly.
  7. Monitor Your Progress: Keep track of your workouts and any improvements you notice over time. This will help you stay motivated and allow you to adjust your goals as necessary.

Remember, it’s important to listen to your body and adjust your workout plan as needed. If you’re feeling tired or sore, it’s okay to take a day off to rest. Fitness is a marathon, not a sprint — it’s all about making sustainable changes for long-term health.

Embrace the Journey: Staying Motivated and Overcoming Challenges

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Your Unique Cardio Routine: Design it to Fit Your Life

Just as I wove cardio into my daily routine, pedaling through the streets of Beijing to client meetings, you can find your own rhythm.

As Arthur Ashe once said, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

Consider a quick lunch break workout, or make short errands a chance to walk, not drive. Or, even turn your house cleaning into a cardio activity.

Remember, “The only bad workout is the one that didn’t happen” — so keep those feet moving!

Overcome and Rise: Dealing with Cardio Challenges

Setbacks are inevitable. Just like when my triathlon race was canceled due to COVID-19. So, I had to reframe what had happened–I had won the race against poor health.

So, find the mindset to conquer each obstacle that stands in your way.

Progress Matters: Keep Track and Keep Going

Acknowledging progress goes beyond the physical. The true rewards of cardio reveal themselves in subtle transformations like better sleep, increased energy, and overall positive mood.

Consider maintaining a simple journal. Jot down post-workout feelings, sleep quality, and daily energy levels. Spotting patterns could be a game-changer in understanding how cardio improves your well-being.

For an objective view of your progress, fitness tracking tools are invaluable. Garmin Connect tracks your activity, health, and sleep patterns, providing comprehensive insights into your fitness journey. Check it out at Garmin Connect.

In the wise words of Jack Lalanne, “Your health account, your bank account, they’re the same thing. The more you put in, the more you can take out.”

Each cardio session deposits into your health account, leading to a life of energy, positivity, and well-being. Isn’t that a progress worth celebrating?

Ready, Set, Cardio: Start Your Heart-Pumping Journey Today

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In the end, my heart did fall in love with cardio, and I’m confident yours will too. The challenges, while plentiful, are more than worth the rewards.

When COVID-19 struck, my dream of participating in the triathlon evaporated. The race was canceled. But by then, my transformation had gone beyond the scales and the finish line. Cardio had become a part of me, a lifestyle that I cherished and enjoyed.

Think back to what we’ve explored — the health benefits, mental boosts, variety of exercises, and endorphins.

That’s your toolkit, ready for action.

When I returned to Canada from Beijing, my transformation was so tangible that it astounded those around me.

Now, it’s your turn.

The key steps? Choose a cardio routine that ignites joy, integrate it into your daily life, and celebrate every milestone, no matter how small.

Here’s to you, standing at the precipice of an exhilarating, heart-pumping journey. Ready to embrace your health, happiness, and life?

On your mark, get set, go!



Lorin Ledger

Moving towards retirement as a novelist. I write because I'm compelled to.