Cardio by definition is any form of movement that increases heart rate and blood circulation throughout the body. Our bodies are made to move, yet so many of us today have jobs that force us to remain stationery for hours at a time. Cardio, for many, has become a dreaded word. An ominous entity that is to be feared and avoided at all costs! However, cardio doesn’t have to be super intense or intimidating. There are many ways to get your daily cardio in, so it’s important to find a way that is enjoyable for you. Whether it’s running on the treadmill at the gym, or going for a nice long power walk, bike ride or run outside, it’s really important to make time for cardiovascular exercise. Many people tie cardio and weight loss together, as it is the quickest way to burn calories which translates to loss of fat. However, cardio has a ton of other health benefits, which makes it equally as important for those who don’t have losing weight at the top of their priority list. Here are a few notable health benefits of performing regular cardiovascular exercise.
Improved Heart Health
It’s important to think of the heart like any other muscle. Not working it properly can cause it to weaken over time, which can result in serious long term health problems. Like all muscles, the heart needs to be exercised to grow stronger. Cardio gets the heart pumping faster and harder, and on a regular basis will keep it in shape and healthy.
Increased Metabolic Rate
Just as it speeds up your heart rate, cardio also improves other bodily functions, such as your metabolism. The more intense the session, the more your metabolic rate will improve. HIIT (high intensity interval training) is particularly effective in speeding up your metabolism. This helps to maintain your weight or lose extra pounds by allowing the body to burn off excess calories faster.
Improved Hormonal Balance
Regular cardio also changes your body’s hormonal profile. Cardio releases endorphins and “feel good” hormones that eliminate symptoms of depression and can help to decrease the appetite. Basically, regular cardio is a huge natural stress reliever, and it’s way cheaper than therapy!
Enhanced Recovery Rate
Cardio can decrease the body’s recovery time too, for instance after an intense strength training or lifting session, doing a bit of light cardio will help bring more oxygenated blood to the muscle tissue, which will reduce muscle soreness and improve the repair & rebuilding process. This naturally allows you to get back to your routine more quickly, so you can continue working those muscles and building additional strength!
Other important benefits of regular cardio include:
Increased Bone Density
Reduced Risk of Cancer & Heart Disease
Improved Quality of Sleep
Increased Energy Level
Just getting started? Begin by building up your cardio base and endurance, then dial up the intensity. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, we should aim for 30 minutes of moderate intensity cardio 5 days a week, or 20 minutes of intense cardio at least 3 times a week. If your goal is to lose weight, you may want to up this to 60-90 minutes per day. Generally speaking though, when increasing your limits, focus on increasing the intensity of the workout rather the volume, unless you’re training specifically for a long distance event like a marathon.
Basically, performing regular cardiovascular exercise not only helps you burn calories and look lean and mean, but improves your overall quality of life. It enhances your overall mood, and will make you feel as good as the inside as you look on the outside! So next time you're dreading the treadmill, try to think of cardio as friend, not foe!