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Why you need to work on your cardiovascular fitness

If you want to increase your stamina, reduce fat and have a healthy heart, do more cardio

Skipping rope is a great cardio exercise.
Skipping rope is a great cardio exercise. (Istockphoto)

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, the key to true fitness is to set yourself realistic goals; goals that help you do your daily tasks, or help you play a sport. If you lead a mostly sedentary life, then the aim to break out of it could well be your goal! With that in mind, I want to talk a little here about the importance of endurance training. And, as usual, I’m going to talk about it through the lens of my favourite sport, hiking and climbing.

Now, I’ve covered the importance of strengthening your back, your legs, your core and improving your mobility if you, like me, love trampling about in the mountains. Apart from these, there’s one more aspect of your fitness that you really need to work on: increasing your stamina.

Also Read: If you want to be fit, don't ignore your core

Endurance forms the fourth pillar of any fitness routine, alongside strength, mobility and balance. After all, fitness is incomplete without a healthy heart, healthy lungs and a healthy circulatory system. And if you ensure this, you’re cutting down on the risks of a stroke, or diabetes, or heart disease. Cardiovascular exercises get your heart pumping, and you can go longer while performing a strenuous task without feeling tired or exhausted. Cardio exercises are also a great way to burn calories. If you were wondering what the best way is to lose fat, this is it!

Mountain climbers will get your heart pumping and leave you breathless. And that's a good thing.
Mountain climbers will get your heart pumping and leave you breathless. And that's a good thing. (Istockphoto)

Now, if you’ve trekked in the mountains, you know how important this is. Walking up an incline of even 30 degrees in thin air, with lesser amounts of oxygen than you're used to, your heart and lungs will always be struggling to keep up. However, if you’ve put in the hard hours of training your cardiovascular system, the benefits can be amazing. In my own experience, I have struggled the first few days of a trek if I haven’t put in enough days of cardio leading up to being in the mountains. On the other hand, if I haven’t ignored by cardio, it takes me far less time to acclimatise to steep terrain and high altitude.

Also Read: Three great workouts for lower body strength

Of all the different kinds of workouts out there, cardio is the one where the likelihood of you needing any equipment is minimal. You may need a rope if you’re skipping, or you may need a cycle if you’re biking. Otherwise, your legs are enough. Start out by going on regular brisk walks. If your fitness levels are already high, I would strongly recommend doing short, intense sprints. Believe me, that’s way better than jogging.

If you’re at home, then try moves such as mountain climbers, burpees, lunge jumps or good old jumping jacks. In fact, there are some excellent cardio workouts on YouTube that you can follow.

First up is this excellent 20 minute cardio workout from the ever-enthusiastic Body Coach. Watch it carefully to master the form, before doing the workout. It’s brilliant.

Another variation is this intense 10 minute workout from fitness coach Heather Robertson. These 6 moves are all bodyweight HIIT workouts.

Finally, here’s another 10 minute workout from Chris Heria over at Thenx. Again this is a bodyweight HIIT workout which will get your heart pumping. Go for it!

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