Aerobic/cardiovascular exercise, or cardio for short, targets your heart. In addition to improving your heart health, it also provides benefits to many other areas in your body as you’ll need to work multiple muscle groups in order to perform aerobic exercise. While the good news is that cardio can be great for your entire body, the bad news is that most people hate doing it because they hate running. It doesn’t have to be terrible, however, as there are a couple of variations that might make it easier and more fun for you. Here are two options that can make running easier and more fun, plus they only take about 20-30 minutes 2-3 times per week.
Some find running unappealing because it exhausts your entire body and you have to keep doing it for quite some time. This is because most people train for endurance, but that’s not necessary. Interval training is an excellent alternative that essentially involves working much harder for a shorter period of time. (Interval training applies to more than just running, of course, but that’s another topic for another time.)
There are several methods of running in intervals, but here’s one example to give you an idea:
- A light jog for a few minutes to get moving (2-5 minutes).
- 1 minute of high-speed running, then 1 minute of low-speed jogging, repeated 5-10 times (depending on your stamina).
- A 5 minute light jog to cool down (or more if necessary).
While you’re technically running about as fast as you can for that one minute, you only have to maintain that intensity for a very short period of time. You immediately get a break afterwards. Instead of enduring 30-60 minutes of sustained running, you only have to endure short bursts. For some, this is preferable.
Each burst can vary in timing as well. For example, some structure their intervals like a pyramid, so you start small, peak in the middle of the intervals, and then slow back down towards the end. My personal method of choice is Swedish Fartlek (speed play) training, as it provides variation in the types of running performed in a single session. For some, interval training may sound like complete hell, but if you’ve never been able to stick to long distance running you may find it easier to accomplish and the results more quickly rewarding.
Stair climbing is a simple exercise you can perform anywhere there is a staircase, whether that staircase is in your home or in public. You’ve likely seen films depict athletes running up large staircases in stadiums before, and this is because it’s great exercise. It’s especially effective if you skip every other step. How can you do this as a practical exercise? If you have access to a standard staircase at home, just follow these steps:
- Run up and down the staircase as many times as you can. Skip steps in-between if you can. Stop when you are so tired you cannot continue anymore. When you get to this point, you mostly likely will only be part of the way up the staircase. If you made it to the top, chances are you’ve got another climb left in you.
- Take the total number of times you made it to the the top of the stairs and cut it in half. For example, let’s say you maxed out at 20 times and that halved number is 10.
- The next time you climb stairs, run up and down 10 times each (the halved number).
- Take a 60-90 second break, then do another set of 10 (the halved number).
- Take another 60-90 second break, then do at least 10 (the halved number). If you can do more, do more. Your goal is to push yourself until you’re too tired to go on.
- As this gets easier, increase the number of times you climb the stairs per set so you’re always pushing yourself to work harder.
Not everyone has a staircase, however, so this exercise isn’t always an option at home. If you don’t want to go out and use a public staircase with regularity, just add stair climbing to part of your everyday life. When you have the option to take the stairs, take them, and run up them skipping every other step. This is a good way to work in a little exercise to your regular day.