Cardio workouts are great for increasing your heart rate and losing weight. Learn the 6 best cardio workouts for women including jumping jacks and standing crunches.
Heart pounding, sweat dripping, deep breathing, legs burning… Hey Lady, when was the last time you had a really good cardio workout? The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition produced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that women get at least 150 minutes or 2.5 hours of aerobic activity per week in addition to regular strength training.
Cardio workouts AND strength training. Yes, that’s right. A woman needs both. Cardio vs. weights is a non-argument because both are recommended for your best health.
Time for an honest check in… How are you doing on your cardio workouts? Perhaps you fall into the 22.9% of American adults and teenagers meeting the recommendations. If not, girl, today is your day to start!
Here are some of the benefits cardio workouts can offer to women as listed by the American Heart Association:
- Lowers the risk of many chronic diseases including heart disease, strokes, type-2 diabetes, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and several types of cancers
- Improved weight management and overcoming obesity and obesity-related conditions and symptoms, like high blood pressure
- Better quality of sleep as it can improve both insomnia and sleep apnea
- Improved brain function, memory, and attention span
- Increased bone health and balance, which help in preventing injuries from falls
- Alleviation of depression and anxiety from naturally-produced feel-good chemicals in the body
- Improved sense of satisfaction and self-worth, well-being, and overall quality of life
Target Heart Rate
A quick word on heart rate zones for the most effective cardio workout: try to keep your heart rate within a target heart rate zone between 50-85% of your maximum heart rate. You can refer to the following handy dandy chart from the American Heart Association.
Ladies, we know you’re busy, you just got home from work, you’ve gotta make dinner, the kids have got to get to soccer practice, and let’s be real, there will always be laundry to do. These cardio exercises were selected for their effectiveness and efficiency. They require no equipment (not even a jump rope), take up little space, and can be done in short bursts of time throughout your week.
Combine all of these exercises using both low-impact and high-impact variations to vary intensity for a DIY full-body circuit or HIIT workout. HIIT workouts (short for High-Intensity Interval Training) are the best cardio for weight loss because they give you the most benefit out of the least amount of time and they maximize EPOC, a.k.a. The Afterburn Effect which works to continue burning calories long after your workout is finished.
We recommend performing each exercise for one minute then jumping right into the next. After completing all six, take a 30 to 60-second recovery, and repeat two to three sets. Let’s get moving!
Jumping jacks are so simple, yet so effective. Aside from raising your heart rate, their movement is in a plane of motion not often utilized, so your inner and outer thighs get some extra lovin’.
- Start by standing with your legs together and your arms down by your side.
- Jump and land with your feet about hip-width apart. As you jump, raise your arms out and up. Think of jumping out into an ‘X’ shape.
- Jump back to the starting position.
- Repeat for one minute.
Lower Impact Variation: Side Jacks
Higher Impact Variation: Star Jumps
Jogging in Place
Don’t have a treadmill and it’s raining outside? No problem! Your heart, lower body, and core can get similar benefits from jogging in place.
- Pick up one foot off the ground, hinging at the hips, bringing your knee up. Pump the opposite arm forward.
- Hop to the other foot, pumping the opposite arm forward.
- Alternate back and forth for one minute.
Lower Impact Variation: Marching in place
Higher Impact Variation: High Knees
Lunges are not only great for elevating your heart rate, but they’re also good for increasing your balance and stability, not to mention a great lower body workout.
- Start standing with your feet together. Hands can be in front of you, at your hips, or raised above your head.
- Take a large controlled step backward with your right foot, keeping the heel lifted, planting the ball of your foot down.
- Lower your hips until your front thigh becomes parallel to the floor, maintaining your knee over your ankle. Think of creating a 90-degree angle with both the front and the back knees.
- With control, step the right foot back forward and come back to your starting position.
- Alternate by stepping the left foot backward.
- Repeat for one minute.
Higher Impact Variations: Lunge knee tuck; Alternating Jumping Lunges
The explosive movement of skaters really helps to build strength and endurance one leg at a time. Like jumping jacks, they work in a lateral plane and help build strength through the hips.
- Start standing with your weight equally balanced between both feet.
- Take a wide leap to the right, tucking your left knee in as you land. Your right arm will bend and your left arm will extend.
- Leap a few feet back to the left, tucking in your right knee and your left arm.
- Repeat alternating from side to side for one minute.
Lower Impact Variation: Curtsey Lunges
What is any workout without some good old squats? Done continuously they elevate the heart rate while strengthening the lower body and hips.
- Start with your feet firmly planted about hip-width apart.
- Bend your knees and send your hips backward as if you were sitting down into a chair, keeping your weight back into your heels. Your torso will naturally come forward. Hands can be in front of you, at your hips, or raised above your head.
- Stand back up and repeat for one minute.
Higher Impact Variations: Squats to Calf Raises; Squats to Jumps
Crunches don’t usually come to mind when people think about cardio, but these standing crunches provide a great core workout while elevating that heart rate.
- Stand tall with your elbows bent, fingertips gently touching the back of your head.
- Lift your right knee toward your chest and crunch forward with your torso.
- Set your foot back down and le542AQngthen up through your spine.
- Repeat the same movement lifting your left knee
- Alternate for one minute.
Variations: Standing Oblique Twists, Standing Oblique Crunches
If you’re brand new to cardio exercise, allow yourself some grace and patience as you build your strength and endurance. Let yourself work up to getting in 150 minutes of cardio each week. Any movement is better than no movement. And if you’re feeling pressed for time, remember that quicker, higher-intensity workouts are the best cardio for weight loss.
If you loved these exercises, be sure to check out the LadyBoss® Pocket Personal Trainer for many more workouts just like this!