A cardio workout is a great a way to keep your body in shape, internally and externally – not only does it hone the muscles of the body, making for a leaner, more trim appearance, it also works the cardiovascular system, leading to a healthy, more active heart, and improved blood flow in the body. In order to improve both fitness and health, it is essential to incorporate cardio workouts in your exercise routine 5 times a week.

Do it on an incline

Running on a flat surface is all well and good, but doing the same activity on an uphill track can make the entire exercise even more effective. Not only will running uphill increase your heart rate, it will also help you burn more calories, and improve leg strength, spring speed, and running form.

Don’t use your hands

When using a piece of gym equipment, like a treadmill or a stationary bicycle, do not use the handrail for support. Instead, leave your hands free, and pump them back and forth (not across your body) along with the rhythm of the exercise you are performing, for added effectiveness.

Alternate high-effort periods with low-effort periods

Do not try to stay intense and high-powered throughout a 30-minute workout – this will leave you exhausted and you will probably quit 15 minutes into the workout. This is because the body should not be subjected to too rigorous a workout for too long a period of time – trying to overdo it is as bad as under-doing it. Instead, you should employ the tactic of interval training – have small periods in which you go all-out and put in maximum effort, and then break off for a small period of low activity or rest. Alternate between the two throughout your workout.

Play upbeat music

Playing upbeat music can go a long way in increasing the intensity of your workout. A bit of a psychological trick, fast music can motivate even the slowest movers to pick up the pace, and put their bodies through a rigorous workout.

Exercise with a friend

Exercising with a friend can be a lot better than doing it alone. Having an exercise buddy makes you feel more motivated, and you are less likely to give up too easily. In addition to encouraging and boosting each other, you can also compete with each other – this is bound to make the workout more effective.

Go outdoors to exercise

Exercising outdoors can be extremely refreshing, rejuvenating, and motivational. In addition to breathing in the fresh air, you can also experiment with a whole range of new activities, like trail running (on tracks that have uneven surfaces) or mountain biking. Along with burning more calories, this will also help you attain a whole new level of balance and athleticism.

Keep track of your workouts

The best way to stay motivated and improve your cardio workouts is to keep track of how much you are doing – record things like pace, distance covered, and calories burned. This can help you better plan your goals, and strategically improve your workouts.