How to Improve Your Overall Health with Cardiovascular Exercise
Have you added cardio to your fitness routine? If the answer is no, here's your sign to do it now. Cardiovascular exercise is one of your most valuable tools when it comes to your overall health.
While most people think of running or cycling when they think of cardio, swimming, walking, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT), are great ways to add cardio to your fitness program. Cardiovascular exercise, often referred to as aerobic exercise, is any activity that aims to increase your heart rate and keep it there over the span of your workout. When you increase your heart rate, your heart pumps more blood and your lungs can increase the amount of oxygen they take in. This, in turn, can lead to marked improvements in your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Let's take a closer look.
What are the physical benefits of cardio exercise?
Cardiovascular exercise is one of the most important things you can do to improve and maintain your physical health. Even if you are just a beginner, adding in cardio can help you see major strides in a short period of time. Consistency is key. The more you work at it, the more noticeable the changes will be. Some of the physical benefits of cardio exercise include:
- Decreased risk for high blood pressure: Every time you do cardio, your heart has to work hard to pump blood throughout your body. With each exercise, your heart becomes stronger. As a result, your heart doesn't have to work as hard, and your body is able to maintain lower blood pressure.
- Better sleep: Researchers don't quite understand the exact connection between exercise and sleep, but they have found moderate exercise helps individuals fall asleep quicker and achieve deeper sleep. Just don't exercise right before bedtime as your workout might have the opposite effect.
- Immune system support: There are several studies that link aerobic exercise with immune function. While research continues, it is believed exercise may help flush bacteria from the lungs, slow the release of stress hormones, and increase the circulation of white blood cells.
- Regulate blood sugar: Evidence shows regular exercise can help mediate the effects of type 2 diabetes. HIIT has shown to be particularly effective in burning excess glucose and reducing insulin resistance. Further, cardio exercise can help control weight, reduce body fat, and control body fat.
Other health benefits include increased cardiovascular health, lower cholesterol, and better joint health.
What are the mental benefits of cardio exercise?
Most people focus on the physical benefits of cardio exercise. And while there are far more physical benefits than listed above, it would be a mistake to overlook the mental and emotional benefits of cardiovascular exercise. In fact, you may notice the psychological benefits of adding cardio, before you know the physical benefits. Growing evidence shows, regular cardio exercise isn't just good for your mood, it can also help you maintain your overall brain health.
Cardio exercise and cognitive function
There is so much we don't know about the brain. However, there is one thing that is clear — regular aerobic exercise is good. Study after study shows getting your body moving helps improve current brain function and may even delay or prevent the onset of diseases such as dementia. How? Among other things, scientists believe this type of exercise helps improve blood flow, reduce inflammation, and lower stress hormones. Interested in more ways cardiovascular exercise can benefit your brain? Other advantages include:
- Increased focus
- Improved memory
- Higher processing skills
- Less "brain fog"
Cardio and your mood
There are several short-term and long-term benefits of cardio exercise when it comes to your mental health. In fact, the American Psychological Association suggests exercise may be as effective as antidepressants for treating mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. Why? Believe it or not, it's not endorphins. While researchers believe chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin may play a role in mood-boosting, the stronger theory is that exercise naturally teaches the body how to deal with stress.
What does 20 minutes of cardio do?
According to the American Heart Association, most adults should aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. That's 20 minutes a day. If you're starting out, that can be as simple as a brisk walk around the neighborhood. In just 20 minutes you can expect to:
- Feel a noticeable change in your mood
- Burn at least 80 calories
- Sleep better
- Increase strength and endurance
- Improve your overall physical health
Of course, if you are looking for more noticeable results, you will need to increase the frequency and intensity of your cardio routine. Incorporating different forms of cardio into your regular workout routine can help prevent your body from becoming accustomed to the same exercises. As always, you should talk to your physician before you make any major changes to your exercise routine.
Does cardio affect our stamina?
Stamina refers to your body's ability to maintain a level of performance during a given physical activity. For example, if you go for a run, can you maintain your pace without having to stop and rest?
So the question is, "does cardio affect stamina?" The answer is, it can. You will not see a change in stamina simply because you add cardio to your routine. You have to be intentional with how you incorporate regular cardio. For best results:
- Be consistent: Your stamina will not improve if you go for a run every couple of weeks or even once a week. Your body will gain strength over time and your workouts will gradually become easier. If you want to see results, you have to make cardio a regular part of your routine.
- Increase difficulty: If you want to increase stamina, you need to make your workouts harder over time. Consider adding resistance, working out longer, or adding weights. Be sure to make these increases gradually to reduce the chance of injury.
- Incorporate HIIT: High-intensity interval training is a mix of short high intensity workouts and low-intensity recovery periods. These types of cardio workouts can increase strength and improve aerobic and anaerobic performance.
Will cardio help me burn fat or lose weight?
Whether your goal is to lose weight for a leaner look or to drop a few pounds, the only way to burn fat is through a calorie deficit. This means your net calorie intake needs to be less than what your body needs to maintain its current weight. To be clear, regular cardio exercise can help you reach a calorie deficit, but on its own, is not a means to burn fat.
That said, there are a number of reasons why you should include cardio if you are trying to burn fat. Here are just a few:
- Cardio burns more calories than strength training: If your goal is to lose pounds, you have to burn calories. The simple fact is, the most effective way to do this is through cardio workouts. Any side-by-side comparison of cardio vs strength training routines will show you that a cardio routine will burn more calories than a strength training workout composed of the same time and same effort.
- Cardio increases endurance and stamina: In order to see results, you'll need to maintain your regimen over an extended period of time. By incorporating cardio, you'll find it easier to push through your entire workout and increase your intensity over time.
- Cardio is a critical component of weight management: While cardio is not technically necessary for fat loss, it is vital when it comes to weight management. Once you achieve your weight loss goals and go back to your regular diet, you'll find it hard to keep the weight off if you don't do cardio. The best option is to incorporate a cardio routine from the start so you can focus on maintenance instead of starting a new routine from scratch.
The best cardio to add to your routine
Cardiovascular exercise can impact practically every aspect of your life. And it doesn't take a lot to make a difference. After just a few workouts, you will likely begin to feel and look healthier. That's why it is so important to find what type of cardio works for you, whether it be hopping on a non motorized treadmill or exercise bike with a fan wheel. If you have tried cardio before and had trouble sticking with it, chances are you just haven't found the one that you like. A few of our favorites include:
- Elliptical training
- Jumping rope
When it comes down to it, there is no one type of cardio that is superior to another. Choose what you feel comfortable with and something you enjoy. Better yet, mix it up from time to time and try something new.
Whether you want to hop on the treadmill or create your own HIIT workout routine, at Tru Grit Fitness, we have tools and equipment that make adding cardio to your routine that much easier. Take control of your health and visit our shop to find the conditioning equipment that is right for you.