Cardiovascular exercise just called cardio by most in the fitness profession is associated with numerous health benefits and is therefore an invaluable part of any fitness program. Cardio exercise is any activity which increases the work of the heart and lungs. Activities such as brisk walking, running, training on the elliptical machine, biking, and working on the Stairmaster are some of the better known forms of cardio.
During cardio exercise, you repeatedly move large muscles in the upper and lower parts of your body and your body responds by breathing faster and more deeply to provide increased blood flow to these muscles and back to your lungs. Your small blood vessels widen (vasodilate) to deliver more oxygen to your muscles and carry away waste products such as carbon dioxide and lactic acid. Your body also releases endorphins which are natural pain killers that promote an increased sense of well-being.
So, regardless of your age, cardio exercise is good for you. As your body adapts to your cardio routine, your heart and lungs will get stronger and more efficient in performing their activities. The following are 9 additional benefits of cardiovascular exercise.
- Helps to lose and maintain a healthy weight. Combined with strength training and a healthy diet cardio helps you to lose weight and to keep it off.
- Increases your stamina. Cardio may make you tired in the short term but, over the long term you’ll enjoy increased stamina and reduced fatigue.
- Wards off viral illnesses. Cardio activates your immune system thus, making you less susceptible to minor viral illnesses such as colds and flu.
- Reduces health risks. Cardio combined with strength training reduces the risk of many conditions, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, stroke, osteoporosis, and certain types of cancer.
- Manages chronic health conditions. Cardio combined with strength training helps to lower blood pressure and to control blood sugar.
- Strengthens your heart. A stronger heart doesn’t need to beat as fast and it pumps blood more efficiently. Consequently blood flow is improved to all parts of your body.
- Keeps your arteries clear. Cardio boosts your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol and lowers your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol. Thus, resulting in less plaque buildup in your arteries. Exercise is actually one of the few “drugs” that we have to raise HDL levels.
- Boosts your mood. Cardio can ease the gloominess of depression, reduce the tension associated with anxiety and promote relaxation.
- Helps you stay active and independent as you get older. Cardio combined with strength training keeps your muscles strong which helps you maintain mobility as you get older. Cardio also keeps your mind sharp. At least 30 minutes of cardio three days a week seems to reduce cognitive decline in older adults.
These are by far not the only benefits of aerobic exercise but hopefully are enough to get people thinking about getting off the sofa and doing something that their body will really thank them for – for years to come…
Darvis Simms is a self employed personal trainer in North Carolina who specializes in helping people over 40 stay fit. He is the author of several fitness books including Forever Fit and Firm