Types Of Cardio: Which Type Is Best?

Types of Cardio: Which Type Is Best?

We took a deep dive into three of the most common forms of cardio exercises. We compared running, swimming, and cycling to give you the best insight into what each type of cardio workout has to offer. 

These three exercises are what we dubbed the classics, but there are endless options to pursue when it comes to cardio. We thought it best to give you the tried and true. Regardless of trends, crazes, or new research -- these three have stood the test of time. 

We will break down each form of cardiovascular training to provide you with the considerations you need to find the best cardio for you. When it comes down to it, each form of cardio has different benefits. 

We will provide you with the facts, questions, and guidance you need to find the best cardio for you. 

What Counts As Cardio?

Cardio is an aerobic exercise that engages the cardiovascular system. Elevated heart rate and breathing pattern while exercising are also indicative of aerobic exercise. There are many forms of cardio ranging in intensity, and even low-intensity cardio can still be largely beneficial. 

How Much Cardio Is Best?

Excluding your warm-up and cool-down, your goal should be to engage in cardiovascular exercise for 30 minutes several times a week. Cardio, unlike strength training, does not demand rest days. 

As long as you make sure not to overdo it, you may be able to engage in cardio every day safely. Engaging in lower intensity forms of cardio may be best when you start, but you can work your way up to more intense workouts, like high-intensity interval training.

The Benefits of Cardiovascular Exercise

Physical activity, regardless of the form, is key to supporting and maintaining a healthy body. As a staple in your workout routine, cardio specifically can have extensive benefits. 

From prevention to advancement, consistent cardio makes an impact.

Overall Benefits of Cardio

Different types of cardio have been attributed to supporting a healthy cardiovascular system, a stable metabolic system, healthy blood pressure, weight loss, and the prevention of chronic challenges. 

Cardio has also been linked to improving mood, sleep, and eating habits and may help decrease your risk of diabetes. 

How To Maximize The Benefits

Though not all types of cardio will help you build muscle, you should still focus on your gains. As you grow in your consistency, you will need to up the challenge. Increase time, pace, intensity, or resistance to push your body further and promote further benefits. 

Give your body what it needs. 

Supplements, nutrition, and sleep should never be overlooked, especially for beginners. Your results are going to be determined by your ability to perform. 

Stick with it. Cardio or any exercise routine takes time to show results. It also takes time for your muscle groups to adapt to the new practice, and consistency and commitment go a long way. 

The Classics: Running, Swimming, and Cycling


Running will require quality running shoes and comfortable running clothes. Your shoes are the most important. To prevent injury and perform to your potential, the shoes on your feet will matter. 

Running stores will frequently assist you in finding the right match for you. You will also need to find a comfortable trail, indoor track or treadmill, or a park where you would feel comfortable going for a jog. 

Many find it helpful to wear a watch that tracks heart rate, speed, and mileage. Running is a weight-bearing exercise. 

For some, this is an advantage, whereas, for others, this form of high-impact cardio keeps them off the trail. Running is often considered one of the fastest ways to burn calories and tone your calves, glutes, hamstrings, and abs. 


When swimming for cardio, you will want either jammers, a speedo, or a one-piece competitive suit. A swim cap, kickboard, pull buoy, and goggles are also incredibly helpful when swimming. 

When swimming, your options are a bit more open. You can focus your workout on your arms or legs or full-body activity throughout your swim. Additionally, many gravitate towards swimming because it is a form of low-impact cardio and is thus easier on the joints and knees. 

However, some people have difficulty finding a pool within a reasonable distance, making it challenging for this activity to be sustainable. 


Whether you are considering a stationary bike, spin class, dirt bike, or conventional bicycle, cycling offers a great community. Between classes and groups, there are wonderful opportunities for connection. 

Typically, a cyclist would need a road bike, bike shorts, clip-in shoes, and a helmet for ideal performance. Cycling can support good coordination and a healthy weight, and many enjoy the low impact and mobility this form of cardio provides. 

How To Evaluate What is Best For You

Consider accessibility, interest, and goals. A one-size-fits-all ultimate form of cardio is not out there. Time, effort, and consistency are the most significant factors in cardio’s impact on your body. Apart from age or incident-related limitations, consider these other factors when choosing your “best” for cardio. 


What form of cardio will be most accessible to you? Do you live in a cold climate or far from a pool? Maybe you are on the road frequently and have limited access to gyms. 

Whatever it may be, focus on the cardio that is most consistently available to you. 

Accessibility goes beyond facilities. If you are looking for groups, trainers, or partners to join you in your endeavor, take some time to research. 

What is offered in your area? If accountability, training, and community are big influencers to your long-term success, prioritize these first. 


This is more of a factor than we care to admit. While you want to go for the biggest pay-out, your interest and drive will determine your success. Have you already started training in one area? Do you have the equipment or resources necessary for one form already? 

Having familiarity with the form of cardio may motivate you to push yourself. On the flip side, you may have become bored of your routine. You may want to consider an alternative regardless of these factors. 


Are you looking to burn calories the fastest, maximize your time, or incorporate strength training? Your goal will have a large impact on the best cardio for you. 

Goals do not always have to be results-based. Again, if community, challenges, or competitions are what you are after, consider what is offered in your area. 

What It Comes Down To

Getting the most out of your workout, cardio or otherwise, requires dedication, motivation, and the proper resources. Ultimately, each form of cardio, whether running, cycling, or swimming, presents unique benefits. 

To capitalize on the full benefits cardio has to offer, mix up your routine. Keep your body and mind engaged by occasionally rotating between exercises. 

The best cardio is the one you will do. If certain forms of cardio are more attainable or practical for your lifestyle, those should be the ones you choose to prioritize. From jump rope to HIIT and dancing, the options are anything but limited.

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