If you needed any more convincing, the 10 cardiovascular exercise benefits we will look at below should be enough to persuade even the most inactive person that it’s time to begin a fitness regimen.
Living a sedentary lifestyle is a recipe for disaster. Doctors and health experts alike recommend regular physical activity as a means of improving fitness and health. And what better way to enforce this than with cardio exercise?!
Cardio exercise refers to any workout that causes the heart rate to beat at a higher pace than usual and the breathing rate to rise to a level that can be sustained throughout the exercise session.
It can be any type of exercise, including jogging, swimming, running, HIIT, walking, or even Zumba! If you are looking for inspiration to kick-start your physical regime, here are 10 benefits of cardio exercise to get you started.
Top 10 Cardiovascular Exercise Benefits
1) Reduces excess fat
For most people, exercise serves as a way to lose weight and maintain a healthy and fit looking body. Conveniently, shedding excess fat is one of the many benefits of cardio exercise. The idea is to move your body to burn calories and strengthen your muscles.
Since your heart is a muscle, doing cardiovascular exercises makes it stronger, which, in turn, enhances the delivery of oxygen to your muscle cells through the capillaries. As a result, your cells will burn more fat even when you are at rest.
Any form of aerobic activity requires using fat as a primary source of fuel while reserving protein and carbohydrates. Therefore, it is evident that to lose fat, you need to do some degree of aerobic work.
2) Improves Sleep
As little as ten minutes of cardio exercise (such as cycling or walking) can significantly improve the quality of your sleep, especially if you do it on a regular basis. What’s more, aerobic workouts can reduce your risk of developing annoying and potentially dangerous sleep disorders such as restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea.
In addition to improving sleep quality and increasing your sleep duration, cardio exercise may bolster sleep by reducing stress. Exercising in the morning and afternoon can also help reset the sleep-wake cycle by slightly raising your body temperature and then allowing it to drop, ultimately triggering sleepiness after a few hours.
3) Regulates Blood Pressure
Blood pressure regulation is one of the little-known cardiovascular exercise benefits.
If your blood pressure is high, cardiovascular exercise can help you to control it. Regular physical activity strengthens your heart, allowing it to pump more blood with less effort, consequently easing pressure on the arteries. The result is reduced blood pressure.
Additionally, if you are more active you can decrease your systolic blood pressure (the higher number in a blood pressure reading) by about 4 to 9 mm Hg. This is almost as effective as some blood pressure medications.
4) Tones & Strengthens Muscles
Done regularly, cardio exercise will tone and strengthen your muscles.
Aerobic conditioning strengthens the heart, promotes oxygen flow throughout the body, and flushes out toxins.
Strength training improves overall structural, tendon, ligament, and muscle strength. Incorporating it into cardiovascular exercise program can go a long way towards achieving a strong, tight, toned appearance.
For toning muscles in your upper body, consider using a rowing machine. The rowing movements on this equipment work the muscles in your chest and arms, as well as your core muscles to help create strong, toned abs. If you don’t have the room for a rowing machine, use dumbbells or a device such as the Iron Gym Total Upper Body Workout Bar. (Click the previous link to read a review.)
To tone the muscles in your lower body, try an elliptical machine, or an Xiser Commercial Portable Stepper, which is the crème de la crème of mini steppers. Both machines are excellent for working the quads, calves, and other leg muscles, and with the Xiser you will also be able to do Burst Training.
The Maxi Climber is another worthwhile option. I use mine regularly, and I love it.
(Click on any of the links above to read product reviews.)
5) Increases Bone Density
There are 206 bones in the adult human body that. Combined with the actions of muscles, bones provide us with a strong support structure for easy movement that enables us to perform everyday activities.
One of the best ways to increase your bones’ strength and density is to do cardio and weight bearing exercise on a regular basis. These activities exert mechanical stress on the body’s bones and muscles. During this process, bone cells move to the areas being worked, initiating the formation of new bone by manufacturing and releasing proteins, including collagen. These proteins settle in between the cells, increasing bone strength. Over time the proteins mineralize to give the bone its characteristic rigidity.
6) Relieves Stress
If you are prone to suffering stress and anxiety, regular exercise can help to ease the symptoms.
The stress relieving benefits of cardio exercise are linked to its ability to maintain mental fitness. Studies have shown that aerobic activity is very effective at fighting fatigue, enhancing overall cognitive function, and improving alertness and concentration. This can come in handy when stress has drained your energy or ability to focus.
Cardio exercise can also change our hormonal profile, releasing endorphins (“feel good” hormones) that counter symptoms of fatigue and depression.
7) Lowers The Risk of Heart Disease
Like other muscles in your body, your heart needs exercise to become strong; otherwise, it will weaken over time, leading to all sorts of negative health effects, including heart disease. As such, lowering the risk of heart disease is one of the most important cardiovascular exercise benefits.
Cardio exercise promotes weight loss and helps control blood pressure, which are major risk factors for cardiovascular disease. It also reduces “bad” cholesterol (LDL or low-density lipoprotein) while promoting HDL (high-density lipoprotein) – the “good” cholesterol.
8) Boosts the immune system
One of the lesser-known cardiovascular exercise benefits is that it boosts the immune system.
Ancient Romans realized that heating up the body in a sauna led to wonderful health benefits. Not all of us have access to a sauna, but we can get the same benefits through cardio exercise.
When we partake in cardiovascular exercise, our body temperatures increase and we perspire. This, in turn, raises the heart rate, helping to boost the immune system and providing protection against bacteria and viruses. Regular, moderate exercise also elevates immunoglobulins, which play a significant role in preventing disease.
Any activity that increases your heart rate for at least twenty minutes at a time (for instance swimming, cycling, or jogging) will result in your blood pumping white blood cells at a faster rate. During this process, your internal body temperature will increase, subsequently killing bacteria and viruses. Additionally, cardio lowers stress-related hormones, which are a common contributing factor to disease.
9) Improves Brain Function
Another of the crucial cardiovascular benefits is that it improves brain function. This makes it especially beneficial to anyone who is experiencing the brain fog that can come with advancing age.
Research has shown that engaging in regular cardio workouts can lead to a considerable increase in brain volume and enhanced executive function. It is thought that exercise boosts the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning and verbal memory.
Cardiovascular exercise benefits involving the brain come from its ability to reduce inflammation, reduce insulin resistance, and promote the release of growth hormones (the chemicals that are responsible for the growth of new blood vessels in your brain, the health of brain cells, and even the survival of new brain cells).
10) Lowers cholesterol levels
If your cholesterol numbers are higher than they should be, cardiovascular exercise is a great place to start on your get-healthy strategy. Performing the right types of workouts can lower dangerous triglyceride levels and boost heart-healthy HDL cholesterol.
Moderate-intensity cardio exercises such as playing tennis, cycling, or walking briskly are especially effective at improving cholesterol levels, as well as lowering blood pressure and your risk for stroke and heart attack.
Cardiovascular Exercise Benefits Summary
Regardless of your age, athletic ability, or weight, cardio exercise is good for you. Undertake it regularly, and your body will adapt and become stronger and fitter over time.
The key to sticking with a program is to find one or more exercises you enjoy doing, and be consistent. If you like the exercise or exercises, the latter will be easy.
To complement your fitness regimen, eat nutritious food, incorporating plenty of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory choices such as avocados, nuts, seafood, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.