If you have decided 2018 is the year you are going to build a fitter version of yourself, then chances are you have already made a start and are beginning to get into your workout routine. Whether you train at the gym or at home, cardio is an important part of any good workout regimen, even if your main goal is to improve strength and muscle tone. Good cardiovascular fitness protects your health and also allows you to keep on training for longer, as well as making you feel fitter in everything you do.
The Many Ways to Get Your Cardio in
There are lots of ways to get a good cardio workout, with some people (particularly those with weight loss as a goal) favoring styles that burn fat rapidly like high intensity interval training HIIT, and others preferring longer periods of steady state cardio such as distance running, swimming or dancing. You can do cardio outdoors, of course, in classes such as spinning and Zumba, or using equipment at the gym or at home such as elliptical machines, exercise bikes, rowing machines and treadmills.
Here, we are going to look at the advantages and disadvantages of using machines for your aerobic workouts:
Using machines can mean:
- Convenience. You can use them whenever you want rather than having to make classes on time, and you don’t have to worry about the weather as you’ll be training indoors.
- Easy to do at home. You can buy a machine, for example a seated row machine, and use it whenever you want without leaving the house. Over a short time, this becomes cheaper than having a gym membership.
- Programmability. If you want to run or cycle, it can be hard to find a route that throws in hills and other elements to make your workout effective exactly where you need them.
- Stats. Everything is tracked on a machine – time, distance, speed and heart rate. You can easily see where you are improving.
The downsides of using cardio machines for most or all of your aerobic exercise include:
- Boredom. Some people find grinding out the minutes on cardio machines to be a chore after a while, and prefer the variety of being outdoors or in a class.
- Predictability of movement. Without natural terrain causing you to adjust how you move, it is possible to overwork some muscles and underwork others if you use only machines – particularly if you use the same machine on the same setting.
- Less meaningful goals. While you can set goals based on the stats a machine shows you, these often lack the same psychological value as more ‘real world’ goals, like being able to enter a 10k race or a triathlon.
All in all, cardio machines can be a very useful and convenient addition to any fitness program, and are even used by top athletes. The most successful programs, however, tend to be ones that mix this kind of cardio with less predictable forms like dancing or kickboxing, and with outdoor work like running or hiking as well.