Advertisement

What is the best cardio exercise?

The best cardio exercise is any exercise that allows you to elevate you heart rate in to your target zone for at least 20 minutes. The best option will be different for everybody and needs to be something that you can build in to your daily routine. 

For those just starting a program, I suggest a nice 10 minute walk would suffice. Key to monitor your heart and make sure you spend 60% of your time in your target zone. 

The best cardio to perform would be any cardio which you enjoy. This can be taking brisk walks with family or friends, playing with children, or being involved in your favorite sport. Exercise is not meant to be something which is dreaded by so many people. Exercise is something which is necessary for improved quality of life, helps to reduce the risk of weight related diseases, and keeps us feeling and looking younger. But, if you do head into a gym to tackle a piece of equipment for your cardio, there are a few things to keep in mind. First of all, cardio should not be done in the same position in which most people spend their day (unless there is a bone or joint problem which could be made worse, in this case seek the advice of your doctor). If you sit behind a computer most of the day then stand up when you get to the gym. Try the elliptical or the treadmill or even an aerobic class, which can be a great form of cardio. The elliptical is great machine, which incorporates a running motion with no impact. Many of these also provide handles which engages the upper body to a greater degree and increases calorie burn. It is important to remember when using machines that the machine does not need the cardio, you do. Make sure the intensity or resistance is at a level which you feel your muscles working. When choosing a treadmill, keep the same thing in mind and put the treadmill at a slight incline to start out with. As this gets easier, increase the incline or the intensity. This will help to prevent hitting a plateau and ensure that you continue getting results.
The best cardio is the one that you like to do.  When it becomes a dreaded chore, you are less likely to do it.  An easy do-anywhere cardio is walking.  You don't need any special equipment to go for a walk.  Make it fun, and the time will fly by, and you might even find yourself looking forward to your next workout.  Be creative.  If you don't have a gym membership, and the weather is inclement, put on some fast-paced music and dance around the house.  Climbing stairs is an excellent workout too.
The best cardio exercise is the one you like. The activity whether it is running, cycling, walking or rowing is not as important as the simple fact that you like to do it. Choosing an activity you enjoy keeps you looking forward to your workout sessions, helps keep you motivated and keeps you moving. Go dancing, do a high intensity exercse class like zumba, or a boot camp class, but have fun.
Robert S. Kaufmann, MD
Internal Medicine
The best cardio exercise is the one that challenges you and you enjoy doing.  I do not have a favorite but they are all challenging.  My typical schedule is to run 3-4 times a week and cycle or use a machine the other days.  You should pick an activity that does not cause injury or too much pain.  I do not believe in no pain no gain!  Other great exercises are swimming which keeps pressure off your joints.
Dr. Mike Clark, DPT
Fitness
The best cardio exercise needs to be: Goal-Specific, Safe, Enjoyable, and Effective.

Goal Specific: If you’re training for a specific event, such as a 5K, then the best type of cardio for you will be walking/jogging/running because it is very specific to that goal.

Safe: Do you feel muscle, bone, or joint pain when you do it? Have you been advised by a physician that it is unsafe, based on your current health status? If yes to either question, then you should select a mode of exercise that doesn’t cause pain and/or that your doctor has approved for you. Exercise doesn’t have to hurt for you to benefit from it.

Enjoyable: You should be doing cardio exercises that you enjoy. Chances are if you perform a type of cardio exercise you enjoy you’ll be more consistent with your routine, and consistency is important when it comes to getting results.

Effective: Incorporate variety into your cardio routine. Variety in your cardio routine will do two things: increase calories burned and put less stress on your body. When you perform a type of exercise that you aren’t accustomed to, it requires your body to burn more energy (calories) which is ideal if you’re seeking weight loss or toning.  Similar to never rotating the tires on your car, the continual and repeated stress of doing the same activity over time will lead to excessive wear and tear on your body, and ultimately injury. By incorporating variety into your cardio routine you will stress your body in different ways, which will decrease the risk of an overuse injury. Staying injury-free will keep you consistent and on track with your program – allowing you to accomplish your goals faster and more effectively.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Any that you will do. 
Wendy Batts
Fitness

Whatever you are willing to do! I get asked this one all the time. There really is no “best” form of cardio. The amount of calories we burn or how hard we work given a particular type of cardio can be relative given our age, gender, current fitness level and current weight. The main thing to consider when choosing a type of cardio is the consistency factor. That is, what type of cardio are you willing to perform and perform consistently over time? For example if someone says that climbing stairs is the best cardio but you can’t stand to do it more than five minutes at a time and you’re not willing to do it three to four times per week, then it is not the “best” cardio for you. Start small, progress slowly and pick modes of cardio that are enjoyable enough to perform multiple times per week.

The best cardio exercise is the one you'll actually DO.  That being said, it's a great idea to shake things up and try something new every now and then.  Sometimes, we make the most gains when we step outside of our comfort zone, and do the things we think we don't enjoy.  
Some people think that cardio and weight training need to be separate.  You can separate them but you can also make a weight training just like any cardio session.  By working out at a high intensity with short rest periods any weight training session can be like any cardio workout.  Bottom line the best cardio workout is something that you enjoy and that you keep coming back for more.  In the end you just need to burn more calories than you take in to see results.

The best cardio exercise is the one that you enjoy, makes you sweat, and is congruent with your health and fitness goals while being within your physical capabilities. Do you enjoy the outdoors? Great, go walk on the beach, ride a bike in the park or go hiking. Do you enjoy sports? Great! Try joining a weekend softball league or stop watching basketball and GO PLAY IT!  If you are not sweating or burning calories, either up the intensity or change the activity. No matter what the activity you choose just make sure it is fun, safe and effective.

 If you enjoy what you are doing, you are more likely to stick with it and see success. Remember, enjoyment bring consistency, consistency brings results, results brings you right back to enjoyment...and now I sound like Yoda.

GOOD LUCK!

The best cardio exercise is the one you most enjoy. Cardio exercise is simply any exercise, or activity, that involves and places a stress on the cardiorespiratory system. Therefore, any form of activity such as walking, mowing the lawn, dancing, playing a sport, or playing with your children can be used as a form of cardio exercise. So, choose activities you enjoy the most. The higher the enjoyment level, the more likely you are to continue doing them. I personally like to mix up my favorite activities to keep from getting bored. If you are the same way, choose a few different activities that you really enjoy and alternate them on different days. Including some variation within a routine is always a good thing.
The best cardio (conditioning) exercise is one that you enjoy doing and one that makes you sweat. There is no one best or worst cardio choice. Just get that heart pumping and break a sweat everyday!

Continue Learning about Cardiovascular Training

Does Slow Exercise Burn More Fat?
Does Slow Exercise Burn More Fat?
You'll find it on virtually every cardio machine at the gym: instructions on how to hit your fat-burning zone. Essentially, it means you get to work o...
Read More
Are some cardio machines better than others for heart rate training?
National Academy of Sports MedicineNational Academy of Sports Medicine
Cardio equipment can be very helpful in your cardiovascular training. The most important thing t...
More Answers
What types of exercise bikes are used for cardio training?
Dr. Mike Clark, DPTDr. Mike Clark, DPT
Here are some types of exercise bikes for cardio training: Recumbent Bike: The recumbent bike off...
More Answers
4 Steps to a Better Cardio Workout
4 Steps to a Better Cardio Workout

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.