Having read all of this you may be thinking: ‘How can I, a 50 lb. overweight couch potato go out and run for 20 minutes and get my heart rate to 65% of its max without having a coronary on the side of the road?’  Well, first of all DON’T.  You want to know how to be a healthy person, not a dead one, so take it slowly at first.  This is written for everyone, even people that don’t exercise much (yet).  Even if you are not overweight, start slowly.  You may begin by walking a short distance every day and progressively increase the distance.  Then, or in addition, increase the speed at which you exercise.  If you try to go out and immediately start exercising the way I do, you’re going to hurt yourself.Start out gradually and slowly increase distance and or speed.  Especially if you have a lot of extra weight, listen to how your body feels.  It may take a month or more of diet and mild exercise before you are ready to go all out.  If you don’t have much weight to lose, you may only need a couple weeks of mild exercise before you start hitting it hard.  Just listen to your body.

Good cardio exercises

There are a lot of things you can do for cardio exercise.  Some are certainly more beneficial than others.  Just remember, if you can get your heart rate up for at least a solid 15 minutes, it counts as cardio.

Running-one of the best!  Perhaps the most practical since it can be done by almost everyone at any time.  It’s also easy, if you focus, to keep your heart rate at the level it should be.  Running, in my view, is perhaps the best cardio exercise because you can directly control how much intensity you are putting forth.  With sports and other exercises, you have limitations on how “all out” you can be.  For instance, if your cardio is basketball, then if your team is down court passing the ball around, you just can’t give 100% because your movement is limited.  Also, if you are on the bench then you are giving about 0% unless you are running in place.

Swimming-A great choice, but not practical for everyone.  For instance, when I swim laps it is really controlled drowning.  Now this is good from a cardio exercise perspective because, although I don’t move fast or efficiently, I have to exert everything I have just to stay above water long enough to keep air in my lungs.  On the other hand there are those like my wife that exert little effort and glide through the water like a dolphin because she has the technique down pat.  For her, just swimming laps isn’t enough to get a really effective cardio workout because she is just too good at it.  For it to be worth it for her, she would have to consciously swim at her highest level.

Running/Jogging-I prefer the term running because if you can “run” for 15+ minutes, then you had a very good workout!  If you jogged, it was probably good, but not as good.  For some people running is just beyond their capacity.  Anybody can jog, but running is sometimes more than just a mental exercise in pushing yourself.  But whatever point you are at, if you are constantly pushing for faster times, you can learn to run.  But whether you are a runner (better) or a jogger (not bad), either is one of the best ways to get your cardio exercise.

Sports-Great, as long as it keeps your heart rate up.  This can be difficult or impossible to do depending on the sport and who its with.  If you are playing a pickup game of basketball with some buddies who happen to be on the local college team, then you will probably get a great cardio workout.  If you are playing with a bunch of old fat Kobe Bryant wannabes, then your workout may suffer.  Also, no matter who you are playing with, golf, ping pong, and bowling probably aren’t the best cardio sports on the planet.

Aerobics– these can be good, but not always.  Programs like P90X and Tae-Bo can be pretty good, but oftentimes they are too focused on “having fun” or combining light strength training with light cardio.  There are some instructors and even videos out there that make your kids sweat they are so intense.  If you are going to do aerobics for your cardio workout, then you should be panting like its going out of style the WHOLE time, and if you aren’t swimming in sweat by the time its over, you need a new instructor.  I’ve known many a fat lady who did aerobics regularly and they were anything but healthy.

Being a healthy person requires cardio exercise, there’s just no way around it.  However, being intense and pushing yourself is essential to getting the best results.  You can time yourself and try to get faster, change your exercise routine every few months, or reward yourself for hitting a certain goal in speed or distance; whatever you need to be sure that you don’t fall into a rut.  Exercise is an essential part of how to be a healthy person, but doing the same thing the same way every time will only get you so far.