There are more options for cardiovascular training than just walking and jogging – calisthenics, swimming, sprinting – and here’s a quick rundown of pros and cons for the various choices.

Walking and jogging are the most popular forms of cardio.  Despite the fact that they aren’t the most dynamic activities, the vast majority of exercisers have fallen into the cardio rut these present.  Walking is the easiest of all of the forms of cardio activities and provides the most health benefits with the least amount of effort. 

Face it walking is easy that’s why so many people do it.  And it’s good for you, too.

Despite what the hardcore might have you believe, there really aren’t any dramatic incremental benefits that come from engaging in all the high-end activities, and walking delivers all the health benefits with a fraction of the impact of running.  The downside of walking is that – IMHO – it’s boring, can be time consuming and is weather-dependant if you don’t have a treadmill.

Jogging provides similar benefits as does walking, but with the price of a lot of impact.  Every step running results in an impact of 2.5-3.0 times your bodyweight.  Over a 20-30 minute run, that’s a lot of pounding.  Just like walking, from a physical standpoint, jogging is easy.  I’m not talking about track and field style distance running, but your regular, run-of-the-mill recreational jogging. 

If it weren’t easy, it wouldn’t be so popular.

But just like walking, a lot of people find jogging to be dull and others find it mentally difficult to deal with 20+ minutes of monotony.  And it’s not the most efficient use of your time once you get past the 20-minute point. The expense of jogging depends on how much you feel like spending on shoes and associated running gear, especially if you’re planning on going out into the elements.

A lot of people walk and run on treadmills; this activity doesn’t compare positively to pounding the actual pavement. Without going into a biomechanical dissertation, running and walking on a tread places a completely different set of demands on the body which can lead to injury problems.  But if you don’t want to go out in the rain and snow – and don’t have a treadmill  – I’m going to tell you about some other cardio options.

Calisthenics get my vote for the most versatile – if-you-have-to-do-one-form-of-cardio – form of cardio.  Five exercises – jumping jacks, squat thrusts, leg drives, push-ups and sit-ups – can provide you with all of the cardio stimulus that you need regardless of level of conditioning. 

Calisthenics provide all of the benefits of walking and jogging, but with the added benefits of strengthening the upper and lower body.  Cals can be done anywhere, anytime without the need for any equipment, not even shoes.  They are relatively easy to learn, can be adjusted for every level of fitness, are athletic and are low/no-impact.

As far as any negatives associated with calisthenics, I can’t think of any and I’m good at coming up with negatives.  I’ll repeat it for emphasis, but I think cals are the single best exercises of any kind that you can do.

That’s it for the first half of the list.  Check back next week for the second half of the list featuring swimming, sprinting, speed work and agility drills.


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