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Best Exercises for Cardiovascular Health

written by: Donna Cosmato • edited by: Angela Atkinson • updated: 5/18/2011

Are you are looking for ways to increase your cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack? Try some of these activities recommended for the cardiovascular system. From simple types like walking to high impact ones like running, we'll give you the facts to chose the best ones.

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    Cardiovascular exercise is essential to heart health, as well as overall fitness. These exercises are also some of the best ways to burn calories and lose weight. Try one of these activities from this list of cardiovascular exercises to reach your workout goals.

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    High Impact Exercises

    High impact cardio exercises are also high intensity exercises. They burn mega calories, raise the heart rate and kick-start the metabolism. Combine them with low or non-impact exercise to give your workout routine some variety, or use them as stand-alone staples. The best high impact exercises for the cardiovascular system are running, jogging, and jumping rope.

    High Impact Cardio Exercise 

    While running and jogging are outstanding cardiovascular exercises, they are not the best for everyone. Extremely overweight individuals or those with knee or joint problems could injury themselves if they are not careful. However, these exercises are excellent ways to build endurance and improve heart health. If you are interested in burning calories while you exercise your heart, this is a superior way to work out.

    Jumping rope requires few skills and inexpensive equipment, but it offers a huge payoff in terms of building endurance and exercising heart and lungs. It can be done just about anywhere by most people; just carry a jump rope on the go with you, and exercise when you have a few spare moments.

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    Low Impact Exercises

    Low impact exercises protect the joints and are recommended for long duration workouts. For best results, do them at least three times a week for about 45 minutes. Try one or all of these low impact workouts to improve your heart health. Suggested exercises for this category of cardio exercises are cycling, steppers and walking.

    Low Impact Cardio Exercise 

    Cycling strengthens your heart and circulatory system. In addition, it is one of the best ways to burn fat. While you will need a few pieces of special equipment, like a helmet and protective pads, it is still a relatively inexpensive and safe way to exercise.

    Steppers are one of the best ways to increase the heart rate quickly. Steppers are best for high intensity short duration workouts, as it is difficult to sustain the action for long periods.

    Walking just might be the perfect exercise; it requires no equipment or skill. Fast walking pumps the heart rate. Steady, low-intensity walking builds endurance.

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    Non-impact exercises are the perfect answer for those with arthritis, joint problems or other conditions that limit mobility and flexibility. They are a safe way to increase the heart rate, encourage blood circulation and strengthen the cardiovascular system because they do not put stress on the spine, joints, or bones. Try elliptical trainers, rowing, or swimming.

    Non Impact Cardio Exercise 

    Elliptical trainers are great multi-purpose machines. With just one machine, you get the same benefit as you would from walking, running or skiing. As a plus, since the exercise is done indoors, inclement weather does not limit your ability to workout regularly.

    Rowing gets your heart pumping and your body burning calories but does not put you at risk for hurting your back. Use a rowing machine indoors, or head to the lake and enjoy the fresh air while you row.

    Swimming is one of the best exercises for the heart and lungs, and it gives one a full body workout. There is little risk of damage to the joints because of the cushioning effect of the water.

    This list of cardiovascular exercises is not all-inclusive. Many other exercises work just as well as the ones listed such as rock climbing, step aerobics or jumping jacks. However, before you start or change any exercise routine, consult your doctor or healthcare professional.

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    The Mayo Clinic, Health Letter, "It's Never to Late to Enjoy Benefits of a Well-Rounded Program," 02/03/2009

    The College of New Jersey, Physical Enhancement Newsletter, "Best Cardio Ever: 15 Ways to Make It Work," 10/2009

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    Image Credits

    All images are from and used under the Morguefile Free License agreement.

    Runner - greenfinger

    Cyclists - Jusben

    Swimmers - dt creations