5 Fun Cardio Activities to Try During Heart Health Month

Give Your Ticker a Workout That's Actually Fun

Heart disease is real. It's a fact that, at least to some degree, you're already aware of. Maybe you've heard the statistics (like that heart disease is the number one killer of women, claiming the life of approximately one woman each minute, or that about 790,000 people in the United States have heart attacks every year, accounting for roughly 114,000 deaths), or maybe your life has been personally affected by heart disease in some way.

And yet, despite the expanded awareness of the problem, a January 2017 news release from the American Heart Association, indicates things are only getting worse, with heart failure diagnoses expected to rise by 46-percent by the year 2030. According to the report, part of the increase can be attributed to better screening and medical advances, but it's impossible to ignore the impact that obesity and diabetes have on cardiovascular risk factors and disease.

While heart disease is certainly a complicated matter that requires a multi-pronged approach to prevention and treatment, there's a reason the American Heart Association provides exercise guidelines to Americans—regular exercise has been proven effective at helping prevent heart disease. Yet, according to the AHA's January 2017 news release, only 22-percent of American adults in 2015 met the suggested guideline to accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week.

Folks, what's going on?

If heart disease kills people (which it does), and there are reasonably easy ways to help prevent heart disease (which there are), why aren't more people following through?

Of course there are many answers to this question, not all of which can be addressed here, but if you've been skipping cardio because spending time on the treadmill is mind-numbingly boring. then your excuses stop now. Take care of your ticker by committing to fun cardio activities like these five up-and-coming sweat-inducing experiences.

1
Break a Sweat With Pon de FLO

Pon De FLO
Pon De FLO

There's no denying that aerobic dance classes like Zumba can set your heart racing, and if you're looking for a new twist to your favorite cardio class, consider trying Pon de FLO. Not unlike Zumba, this dance class uses non-verbal cuing and a high intensity interval training structure to help participants work up a sweat. What's different is that Pon de FLO features Caribbean Reggae-style music and dance moves that make you feel like you're at a club in the islands.

Currently classes are only offered in New York, but locations are expanding and there's a soon-to-be-released Pon De FLO to GO option to provide live-streaming videos to those who can't make it to class.

Not in New York? Just throw on your favorite playlist and dance around your house for an hour. The experience will lack the fun Pon de FLO choreography, but it'll still raise your heart rate while helping you accumulate those much-needed minutes of physical activity.

2
Cycle to Heart Health With IMAXShift

IMAXShift
IMAXShift Facebook

If you thought your basic group cycling class was a little too tame, it may be time to kick up the adrenaline (and your heart rate) with a class at IMAXShift in New York City. As the name implies, IMAX is involved, as class attendees saddle up in front of a giant 40-foot-wide by 24-foot-high movie screen. Throughout class, hyper-real imagery plays across the screen, taking riders over mountains, through valleys, and across star-studded galaxies, all to the beat of songs from artists like Beyonce and Coldplay.

Jesse Alexander, an IMAXShift master instructor, says that the immersive experience is particularly beneficial for exercisers, "At IMAXShift we prioritize form, riding to the rhythm of the music with high intensity interval training. When that's combined with the immersive content, a rider gets so lost in their personal journey they don't realize how much harder they actually work, therefore burning so many more calories than during a standard indoor cycling class."

Granted, this may be based on anecdotal evidence alone, but it makes sense—when exercise is enjoyable, you're more likely to push yourself without noticing the added challenge.

Not in New York? There's certainly nothing wrong with your standard cycling class, but you may want to see if there are cycling tours in your area. Hitting the road on an actual bike is a great way to enjoy an old-school immersive experience. Or, if you have access to a spin bike, consider downloading a Sufferfest workout to your phone. These virtual workouts provide video footage from some of the biggest cycling races in the world, offering Average Joes and Janes (that's you) a chance to workout with a race-like atmosphere.

3
Get Pumped With LIFTONIC

LIFTONIC
LIFTONIC

You may not think of strength training as a typical cardio activity, but it's all in the delivery. LIFTONIC, a weights-only group fitness studio that opened in Manhattan in December 2016, combines traditional strength training with circuit-style programming, and a boutique studio environment, that's guaranteed to get your heart and your muscles pumping.

Radan Sturm, an Australian fitness expert and the brains behind the routine, emphasizes that just because LIFTONIC is a weights-based class, that doesn't mean it's not good for cardio, too, "It's a non-stop, 50-minute class, and we do medium-repetition sets with very little to no rest between exercises, so your heart rate generally stays elevated between 120 to 170 beats per minute. And because of the class' programming, your heart rate will go up and down, just as it would during traditional cardio intervals."

Radan makes an especially good point when he says, "Remember, weights done the right way can also be cardio, yet most forms of cardio can never give you a strength training workout." In other words, with a workout like LIFTONIC, you hit two birds with one stone. Who doesn't love that?

Not in New York? Throw on a sick playlist and try a weights-based circuit training routine like this one. All you need is a set of dumbbells and a timer.

4
Get Wound Up, Then Chill Out at Box + Flow

Box + Flow
Box + Flow

Another new boutique fitness experience in New York City is Box + Flow, the ultimate heart-healthy fitness mash-up of boxing and yoga. Each 55-minute workout includes a five minute warm up, 35-minutes of shadowboxing, heavy bag work, and speed intervals, followed by a 15-minute yoga flow to cool down stretch out while focusing on deep breathing.

The beauty of this combo is that it benefits the heart from two angles. First, you enjoy the clearly cardiovascular challenge of a serious boxing workout, then you enjoy the stress-relieving benefits of yoga. Just as LIFTONIC hits two birds with one stone, so does Box + Flow.

Not in New York? Don't sweat it! You can try this boxing workout at home, and wrap it up with this simple yoga flow and meditation series.

5
Set Your Heart Racing With SKATEROBICS

SKATEROBICS
SKATEROBICS

The world would probably be a better place if everyone spent part of their day rollerskating. Really, it should probably be mandatory. Not only is skating an excellent (and relatively inexpensive) form of exercise, it's just plain fun.

Tanya Dean, a personal trainer and the founder of SKATEROBICS, is a retired New York City Department of Corrections Captain. In other words, if anyone knows a thing or two about needing to use exercise as a way to de-stress after a tough day at work, it's certainly Dean! And the whole premise of her SKATEROBICS program is to combine fitness with fun.

Even if you're not a skilled skater, that's okay. Students are first taught the fundamentals of skating before they progress to more challenging skills. And even at lower intensities, you're still going to enjoy a heart-boosting workout with an estimated calorie burn of up to 750 calories per class. As Dean says, "Even at moderate speeds, roller skating can provide an aerobic workout that improves cardiovascular health."

Not in New York? Head to your local roller rink and rent a pair of skates for a few hours. It's a great way to get active with your entire family.

Sources:

American Heart Association. "Physical Inactivity And Heart Disease - Go Red For Women". Go Red For Women®. https://www.goredforwomen.org/know-your-risk/factors-that-increase-your-risk-for-heart-disease/physical-inactivity-heart-disease/

American Heart Association. "Facts About Heart Disease In Women - Go Red For Women". Go Red For Women®. https://www.goredforwomen.org/fight-heart-disease-women-go-red-women-official-site/about-heart-disease-in-women/facts-about-heart-disease/

American Heart Association. "American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults." July 2016. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/PhysicalActivity/FitnessBasics/American-Heart-Association-Recommendations-for-Physical-Activity-in-Adults_UCM_307976_Article.jsp#.WJFWFvk

American Heart Association. "Heart Failure Projected To Increase Dramatically, According To New Statistics.". American Heart Association News. January 25, 2017. http://news.heart.org/heart-failure-projected-to-increase-dramatically-according-to-new-statistics/

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