When the average person decides it is time for them to start exercising, they often turn to the gold standard method of calorie burning: Cardio. Cardio is like the comfy ugly sweater hidden in the far back reaches of your closet: It isn’t always attractive, it makes you sweat like crazy, you might look ridiculous in it, but there is nothing more comforting in the world. We often love joining cardio classes like Zumba because they’re fun or running on the treadmill because it torches calories. Cardio is easy to do, works up a major sweat, and makes us feel strong and powerful while getting lean.
But did you know that there are major reasons you should be getting your heart pumping other than trimming your waistline? Yes, cardio is a time-tested and doctor approved method of shedding major weight, but the health benefits of cardio go so far beyond just losing pounds.
- Improved heart health. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Heart attacks, strokes, congestive heart failure, hypertension – the list goes on and on. Studies have reliably shown that even low levels of cardio exercise performed for twenty minutes and three times a week can reduce your risk of heart disease by at least a third. Better yet? Those same studies have started to show that you can receive some level of benefit in heart disease reduction even if the activity isn’t concurrent. What does that mean? You can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease by getting up and walking for ten minutes three times a day.
- Improved hormones. “Food is the world’s most abused drug, and exercise is the least utilized antidepressant.” Cardio activity is literally the natural key to unlocking happiness. Naturally occurring hormones typically found in the most common antidepressant medication are dramatically boosted almost immediately upon experiencing an increase heart rate.
- Improved recoverability. Everyone has experienced the muscle fatigue and soreness that comes from a workout. The pain experienced is the result of the muscles attempting to recover from the naturally occurring tears and stretches experienced during exercise. (Yes, your muscles tear every single time you exercise. Strength is gained every time your muscles have to recover from those tears.) Cardio is like nature’s bandaid for muscle tears and fatigue. Cardio helps the body recover from exercise faster and helps build muscle stronger. Beyond exercise, cardio also helps the body recover from injury, sickness, and surgery.
The health benefits of cardio almost outshine the incredible outcomes they can have on the scale. Cardio not only can boost your mood, build your muscles, and save your heart, it can help get you into those skinny jeans you’ve been dreaming about. Get out there and get running!