Making time for cardio in your regular routine isn’t a question, it’s a necessity. In addition to keeping your heart and joints healthy, this form of exercise can improve everything from the function and condition of your lungs, pancreas, and blood to the quality of your sleep. (Oh, and expect big energy and mood boosts!) Whether you’re biking, running, swimming, or even jumping rope, there are reasons why you should make sure you do the proper amount of cardio and incorporating only the right exercises into your routine. If you don’t, you may be doing your body more harm than good. For example, you’ll want to check out the following cardiovascular habits that age you the fastest.
We spoke to Rob Wagener, NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach, who tells us the bad cardio habits you should ditch ASAP. Read on to learn more and get ready to ditch them.
Wagener explains that while high-intensity cardio is a great way to “get your heart rate and blood pumping” and will put you on the right track for weight loss, it’s important to be aware that it can strain your body
“Like a car, running it at 100 mph all the time may seem like a good time, but it will eventually lead to faster breakdown of essential parts and is more likely to lead to more frequent injuries,” says Wagener, adding: “Low-intensity cardio, such as slow walking or jogging, can produce weight loss results that burn calories while giving your body a break from fast-paced activities.”
Related: What Science Says About Cardiovascular Habits That Delay Aging
When you think of cardio, running, climbing stairs, and exercising on the treadmill probably come to mind. These exercises can shape and tone muscles that are working hard. That’s all well and good, but Wagener warns, “Excessive lower-body cardio can leave your upper body underconditioned.”
So don’t forget to show some TLC to your upper body too! Wagener explains that you can do this by looking for “ways to get your heart rate up through upper body movements.” Battle ropes are a stellar tool to work with if you want to work your upper body through cardio. You can also grab a set of lightweight dumbbells, which Wagener says work a little faster and give you the results you’re looking for. “When it comes to cardio, remember that it’s a full-body opportunity,” Wagener emphasizes.
Related: Fitness mistakes at 50 that keep you from losing weight, says trainer
If you’ve ever had joint pain or dealt with joint pain on a regular basis, you know it’s a problem that definitely makes you feel older. As Wagener points out, “Nothing ages a person faster than sore joints. Not being able to move fluidly because of joint pain or restriction is no fun.”
That’s why it’s important to make sure you’re not damaging your joints by doing too much of the wrong workout. Wagener tells us, “When it comes to cardio, keep in mind that low-impact cardio can be just as effective for your body as high-impact cardio, but it will take the pressure off and hit the joints.”
For example, consider working out on the elliptical over the treadmill once in a while. If that doesn’t interest you, how about a water-based workout? As Wagener explains, swimming is an amazing, low-impact, full-body cardio workout that’s easy on your joints and will burn calories.
When it comes to getting out of the house to exercise, Wagener says taking big steps outdoors is one of the best types of cardio workouts because of the health benefits and total enjoyment. However, when it comes to the cardiovascular habits that make you age faster, the latter is a major no-no.
Wagener warns, “The sun can wreak havoc on the skin. Excessive sun exposure for extended periods of time can lead to advanced skin aging, wrinkles, sunburn, or worse, skin cancer.”
To avoid these problems, he emphasizes the use of appropriate protection in order to “protect the skin from the elements.” That way, you’re not putting your skin’s health at risk to burn some calories. Don’t forget your sunscreen!
Desirée O is a freelance writer covering lifestyle, food and nutrition news, among other topics. Read more