Cardio King: Why Cardio Exercise is Insanely Good for You
Cardio exercise refers to any form of exercise that elevates the heart rate, forcing the heart and vascular system to pump oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. Various types of exercise qualify as cardio, provided they are performed over a sustained period of time.
Popular choices include running, walking, swimming, and cycling. Here are some of the most important reasons why cardio is good for your body.
A Healthier Heart
The human heart is a muscle that must be worked to remain strong and healthy. If you don’t put it to work, it will begin to get weaker. A weak heart is unable to pump sufficient blood throughout the body, putting the lungs, liver and other organs at increased risk for disease. If you’re out of breath from just climbing the stairs, it’s because your heart muscle is weaker than it should be.
The stronger your heart is, the more oxygen-rich blood it’s able to pump with each contraction. Cardio gets the heart pumping at an increased rate and helps reduce LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. High levels of LDL can lead to heart disease and stroke. This action also lowers your resting heart rate, preventing it from having to work as hard during ordinary activities. The healthier your heart is, the healthier the rest of your body will be.
Cardio is also highly beneficial for your brain’s health. A study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience showed that cardiovascular exercise improves memory, processing speed, visuospatial skills, and executive function in otherwise sedentary adults. This was the first study designed to determine the short-term effects of exercise on older adults from 57 to 75 years of age.
Participants were studied over a period of 12 weeks to evaluate the effects of 3 one-hour aerobic sessions. The results of the study suggest that the body can benefit from even short-term exercise. They also demonstrate that you’re never too old to benefit from the effects of cardio.
Cardio also changes your body’s hormonal profile. It promotes the release of hormones that elevate mood, easing symptoms of depression and fatigue. If you’re prone to compulsive eating when you’re depressed, you’ll also benefit from the release of hormones that help decrease appetite.
People who regularly perform cardio tend to have a more positive outlook on life, due to the release of these hormones.
Blood Sugar Management
Cardio is also one of the best tools for managing diabetes. Diabetics are highly sensitive to changes in their blood sugar levels. By raising the heart rate above normal, regular cardio workouts can increase glucose utilization and decrease insulin resistance. This provides the body with better control of blood sugar, reducing swings.
Note that swimming is a particularly beneficial form of cardio for those with Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes can reduce blood flow to the extremities, causing an individual to lose sensation in their feet. A pool or swim spa can provide an ideal exercise environment, due to the buoyancy provided by the water.
In addition to increasing your heart rate, cardio can also help boost your metabolism. Various factors can affect your metabolism, including age, sex, your genetic profile, and even a thyroid problem. Since factors like these are mostly out of your control, it makes sense to focus on doing whatever is in your power to help regulate it.
The metabolic rate increases with the intensity of a cardio session. The increased rate makes it easier to lose unwanted pounds and maintain a healthy weight. Since it takes longer to break fat down than carbs, longer cardio sessions (20—45 minutes) are better for burning fat than short sessions (under 20 minutes). During short sessions, the body tends to rely more on carbs for energy.
Keep in mind that the benefits of cardio, like any other type of exercise, are not permanent. However, they are cumulative. This means that the more consistent you are with whatever form of cardio you prefer, the more benefits you’re likely to gain from it over time.