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Cardiovascular exercise is aerobic exercise -- such as running, cycling or cross-country skiing -- that is done over an extended period of time. It's the type of exercise most people think they need to spend hours doing to lose weight and get in shape. However, you can get in shape without spending hours running on a treadmill or climbing a stair-stepper at the gym. Include other forms of exercise in your weekly regimen to build muscle and tone up while still reaping heart-healthy benefits.
Start strength training to get in shape. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, healthy adults should engage in two to three strength-training sessions per week. Strength training increases muscle mass, which has a higher metabolic rate than fat. This means that you can burn more calories even while at rest. A higher lean muscle-to-fat ratio also gives you a toned and lean physique. Target the major muscle groups, including the back, chest, arms, shoulders, abs and legs during a strength session. Start with one to two exercises for each muscle and complete eight to 10 repetitions for a total of three sets each. Aim to decrease rest times between exercises and/or sets to keep your heart pumping and blood flowing.
Replace straight-up cardio with circuit training. Circuit training involves performing a series of exercises back to back with little rest between. Circuits can actually involve both cardio and resistance training exercises, particularly if you do exercises such as jumping jacks and jogging between strength moves. To eliminate the cardio component, stick to resistance training moves such as squats, pushups, lunges, crunches and triceps dips. Note that although you are not working the cardiovascular system with traditional aerobic exercise done over an extended period of time, you will still reap cardiovascular benefits from raising the heart and breathing rates with exercise exertion. A 2001 study by Jacobs et al. in the Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that subjects with chronic paraplegia increased upper-body muscle strength and cardio endurance with a short-term circuit training program.
Add Pilates to your cardio-less exercise routine. Pilates is a conditioning program that incorporates stretching, strengthening and postural exercises into its routine. The exercises aim to correct muscular imbalances that lead to tightness, weakness and poor posture. Exercises such as leg raises, planks and arm circles will lengthen and strengthen the muscles to give you a long and lean physique. Many Pilates studios use equipment such as the reformer, but exercises can be done at home on the mat to improve core stability, according to the Mayo Clinic.
- Eat a nutrient-rich diet in addition to a regular exercise routine for optimal health benefits.