The Benefits of Cardio
Cardio tends to get a bad rep — some might even call it tedious, treadmill-bound torture.
The truth is, there’s plenty of ways to get your heart pumping that don’t involve being chained to a workout machine (and if that’s what you’re into, that’s great too!).
Making time for cardio can make all the difference in not just your longevity, but your quality of life. The benefits of aerobic exercise go above and beyond your physical health, positively influencing your mood and mental state. To learn more, Vikki Swain, group fitness supervisor at Supreme Sports Club, is here to answer your most common questions.
But before we get to that, let’s first take a look at the known health benefits cardio offers…
Boost your health with cardio
Considering that the leading cause of death in the United States is heart disease, increasing the efficiency of your cardiovascular system is extremely important. By strengthening your heart and blood vessels and improving the flow of oxygen throughout your body, you can think of cardio as a valuable form of protection for your heart.
While you might expect cardio to be tiring, it actually increases your energy levels by getting your heart rate up and blood flowing. Plus, with greater stamina and endurance comes the ability to move throughout your day without feeling winded.
Here’s a few additional benefits…
- Lowers stress levels
- Encourages better sleep
- Lowers blood pressure and keeps your arteries clear
- Releases feel-good endorphins for a mood boost
- Improves lung capacity
- Helps control your appetite
- Improves immune function
- Helps prevent or manage heart disease and diabetes
- Enhances cognitive performance
- Promotes better balance and agility to help reduce your risk of falls
So, what are your options for raising your heart rate and reaping the benefits? Walking, swimming, cycling, dancing, circuit training, jump-roping, kickboxing, power yoga, running stairs and even heavy cleaning can count as cardio. And, of course, the traditional machines you’d expect, like the elliptical and treadmill.
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Now that we’ve covered the importance of fitting some heart-pumping exercises into your regimen, here’s a few of our top questions answered by Swain…
How much cardio do you really need?
Swain: For optimal health benefits, the American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week. That amounts to about 30 minutes of activity five times a week. If you are just beginning to incorporate cardio into your routine, I recommend starting with one to two days a week at or with a simple walk around town when you can fit it in your schedule. Start small and grow from there! Create achievable goals at first and that will keep you motivated as you increase those goals.
How can you actually have fun with cardio?
Swain: The most important way to make any form of exercise fun is to vary your workouts and to identify what motivates you most. For some of us, music is a big motivating factor. Create a playlist that speaks to you or attend a class that focuses on music motivation. A good example of this are our MyMusic cycle classes at CA. If you know that a group environment or working out with friends motivates you, create a weekly schedule with your friends and hold each other accountable. Try a class you’ve never tried before…it is much less intimidating if you go with a friend too!
What is the biggest myth you hear about cardio?
Swain: The biggest misconception I dislike about cardio is that it’s the best way to cancel out a “bad day” of eating. This idea is not only untrue, but also creates a negative approach to cardio and exercise in general. Exercise shouldn’t be thought of as a “punishment” for some “bad” food choices. Exercise should be thought of as a way to protect and preserve our bodies. By the way, there are no “bad” food choices…treat yourself once in a while…you deserve it!
Get your cardio on with CA
Ready to get moving? CA’s three fitness clubs include state-of-the-art equipment, personal training programs, group fitness classes and much more to help you achieve your healthiest, strongest self. Check out a list of our cardio classes, or view the full offering of our classes.