The Best Cardio Exercises and Their Benefits

The Best Cardio Exercises and Their Benefits

Cardio is an essential aspect of regular exercise that is as important to an attractive figure as it is to a healthy life and optimal fitness. Furthermore, it’s loads of fun and can be accomplished in many different ways. If you are looking for a fun and practical way to include cardio in your life, or not even sure what cardio is, you’ve come to the right spot.

In the following reading we will explore what cardio is, why it’s important, and a number of activities that can help your raise your heart rate and up your metabolism.

What Is Cardio?

Cardiovascular exercise, or cardio for short, describes those physical activities that elevate the heart rate and boost the circulation through blood vessels. Cardio also increases the breathing rate to gain more oxygen, since the muscle systems require more oxygen when fully engaged.

As cardio activities are continued for longer periods of time, more oxygen and nutrients are delivered throughout the body to every cell. Of course, this requires a good measure of effort, burning calories, and generally getting hot and sweaty.1

So, why would anybody want to put themselves through all that effort?

Why Do Regular Cardio?

Regular cardio exercises the heart and circulatory improving its capacity to deliver life-giving oxygen and nutrients to the limbs, muscles, brain and vital organs. Regular exercise also contributes to a balanced weight by firing the metabolism, burning calories and improving energy levels.

Furthermore, your daily physical activities are an opportunity to reduce stress, brighten the mood and even make social connections that help keep your mind and body on point in your efforts.2

There are high-intensity workouts and low-intensity workouts that can be effectively used to increase the heart rate above regular levels. Studies have shown that even a weekly expenditure of 1,000 calories in cardio exercise is associated with health benefits. It doesn’t really matter what exercises you choose to you so long as you practice regularly.3

Best Exercises for Cardio

Everyone needs to do cardio and fortunately there are as many cardio fitness programs as there are people to practice them. Following are some fun and even unexpected ways to increase your heart rate and energize your body.

Please note that all the calorie expenditures provided are for an individual weighing around 150lbs and practicing the activity listed for a period of half an hour. Heavier and lighter health-enthusiasts will use more and less calories respectively.

female walking close upWalking

Walking is the most widely available exercise and is as effective for novice trotters and fleet-footed veterans alike. An evening walk has long been prescribed as a solution to achy joints, backs, and shoulders strained from physical labor, uncomfortable postures, and the pains of arthritis. Studies have even shown that walking reduces the cravings for sugary treats, which can help fine tune weight loss efforts and bolster healthy diet plans.4,5

The best thing about walking, is it can be done at your own pace making it a soothing, low-impact exercise. If you can quicken your pace to a brisk 4.5 mph you will burn around 150  calories in half an hour of walking across flat ground. Add some stairs, hills and a park or forest and the health benefits have increased dramatically.6   


The bicycle may just be the pinnacle of human ingenuity in the design of sustainable transportation. Billions of people use bicycles everyday around the world for different reasons, but good health and preservation of the environment are among the greatest. Unlike driving a car, riding a bike is inherently relaxing and enjoyable. In addition to improving your heart health, cycling is very easy on the joints and can be used to gradually improve fitness conditions.7  

Stamina, endurance, and strength will be challenged and improved through regular cycling. Whether you choose to ride the open trails and roads or practice cycling in the comfort of your home on an exercise bike, you can burn up to 400 calories in half an hour of moderately vigorous effort.  

male swimmingSwimming

Swimming is the perfect fitness exercise as it engages the whole body. It improves endurance and muscle strength while relaxing the joints and relieving skeletal structures. Swimming is advisable for those with excess weight, those recovering from physical injuries, elderly adults, as well as the hale and hearty.8

Just splashing around in the pool or seaside engaging in light aerobics will burn 150 calories while strengthening joints and engaging muscles systems. For a more intensive workout, the backstroke will burn almost twice that many and the challenging butterfly stroke can burn as many as 400 calories in half an hour.   

Martial Arts

If you are feeling weak and inadequate, a few lessons with an experienced martial arts master can help you realize your full potential. Martial arts are not just about kicks and punches, but about learning how to properly engage the body, discipline the mind, and increase natural vitality. And there is such an extensive selection of styles and approaches to choose from.9

If you have a knack for the physical challenges of martial arts and hope to push your training to a competitive level, Judo, Karate, Boxing, and MMA are all high-impact high-intensity workouts that can build considerable cardio. You’ll burn just under 400 calories in a half hour session. Then there are the more philosophical, artistic, and meditative practices that have their own selection of benefits. Tai Chi and Qigong burn 150 calories in half an hour.

group of people dancingDancing

Since ancient times we have been driven by the curious need to match the beats and rhythms we hear with bodily movements. Dancing is great exercise and a big part of what sets humans apart from the animal kingdom. Studies suggest that the capacity to “get down” and “bust a move” might lead to increased intelligence.10

If you are in peak physical condition and have extensive dancing experience, you may be up for the more challenging Cossack Folk Dancing or Breakdancing. The latter is being considered for an Olympic Event for 2024. The rest of us mere mortals will get plenty of fun cardio and mental stimulation from the Cajun Jitterbug, Disco, or Square dancing –– all burning around 230 calories in half an hour.11

House Cleaning and Gardening

Gardening is an especially enjoyable and satisfying activity with a wealth of potential benefits. Working with plants changes people from the way they think to reductions in their body mass index. As often as needed, you can take full-advantage of your workout schedule and plan a deep cleaning of the house. By the time you’re done, you will have doubled the  feeling of satisfaction as exercise is completed and you have a clean environment to relax.12

If you go all out moving furniture, getting all the corners, dusting the tops of doors and even washing the windows, you can expect a rewarding expenditure of 200 calories in half an hour. Taking a leisurely 30 minutes to tend your gardens, water the plants, and prune the hedges will burn around 170 calories.

Final Notes on Cardio

Choosing an activity that suits your styles and interests is important to continuing your healthy lifestyle well into the future. But if you are recovering from a serious health condition, need help losing excess weight or haven’t exercised in a long while, getting expert advice is a great option.

In addition to provide you with the best options for regular cardio, your health professional may be able to suggest diet and supplementation options that can expedite your return to better health.

Photo credits: AlexMaster/, Microgen/, DragonImages/


By Maddy Jenner

Maddy is a researcher and an essential oil advocate and loves learning about the intersection of these categories. She loves hiking, camping, exploring and being outside.

Favorite MONQ blend: Zen

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The above information relates to studies of specific individual essential oil ingredients, some of which are used in the essential oil blends for various MONQ diffusers. Please note, however, that while individual ingredients may have been shown to exhibit certain independent effects when used alone, the specific blends of ingredients contained in MONQ diffusers have not been tested. No specific claims are being made that use of any MONQ diffusers will lead to any of the effects discussed above.  Additionally, please note that MONQ diffusers have not been reviewed or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. MONQ diffusers are not intended to be used in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, prevention, or treatment of any disease or medical condition. If you have a health condition or concern, please consult a physician or your alternative health care provider prior to using MONQ diffusers. MONQ blends should not be inhaled into the lungs.

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