Best exercises for sport and cardio fitness

We take a look at top workouts and exercises for building up your sport and cardio fitness - think group fitness classes, running clubs, obstacle courses, hip-hop dance.

 

 

GOOD FOR

While not overly useful to the highly trained individual, low-key, entertainment-based group fitness classes or activities may provide a much needed push for the under-motivated.

“These types of workouts would be great for training for a five to ten kilometer fun run or obstacle course, but if your fitness levels are higher, you might find these exercises to be more of a fun sweat session,” says transformation coach and part-time athlete, Emilie Brabon-Hames.

THE TRIFECTA: BODY COMPOSITION, MUSCLE HYPERTROPHY, FITNESS

Military-style obstacle courses have become popular for improving cardio fitness, burning calories and creating positive functional movement patterns. Courses such as True Grit not only provide a physical challenge, but also test your mental resolve and stamina, ensuring compliance. Beyond the 10 to 12 kilometers of the actual obstacle course, they often require a decent training component in preperation for the event.

“These are a fun, effective and challenging way to get your cardio in. You’re working out in a team environment, creating an encouraging atmosphere for increased motivation. People often push themselves harder in this type of environment than they would at the gym or running on a treadmill,” says nutritionist, trainer and online coach Brooke Turner.

“It’s a full body workout, so while you’re doing cardio you’re also challenging your strength. You might surprise yourself with what you achieve.”

Cardio fitness and increasing your breathing and heart rate have important health benefits, beyond body composition. Plus – we might as well admit it – courses that take you out of your comfort zone make you feel just that little bit bad-ass.

“Heart disease is the biggest cause of death for women in the world, and the first step to prevention is keeping the heart healthy. So sweating and making sure you are out of breath four to five times per week is beneficial not just for healthy heart function, but for endorphins, PMT and self confidence,” says Turner.

“Who doesn’t love knowing they can run ten kilometers or punch their way through a boxing class?”

LIMITATIONS

Progression is obviously difficult without a structured plan and engaging in just one style of training will always allow your body to adapt or plateau. Whether you’re a gym junkie or group fitness fiend, Turner recommends varying your training routine.

TRY

Brabon-Hames agrees that you should mix it up and add some high intensity sessions into your workout routine.

“Short-term, you burn calories from any exercise. But if you really want to keep burning long after you finish that session, make sure it is of a higher-intensity to get that EPOC happening at a higher level and see continuous improvement,” she says.

“A mixture of resistance training, low-intensity steady-state cardio (LISS), cross-training and HIIT is your ultimate weapon to being fit.”