We hear the term cardiovascular exercise all of the time, so much so that many of us take it for granted. The reality is that cardiovascular exercise comes with a host of physical and mental benefits. Just in case you did not know, cardio exercise is any type of exercise that raises your heart rate. It is one of the most common types of exercise, and in fact, it is one of the few exercise classifications out there.
What you may not know is that the benefits of cardio are vast and simply amazing. This type of exercise can help your body and your mind in a number of different ways. If you don’t do any cardio yet, after you have read what we have to say, you might just change your way.
What Is Cardio?
Cardio actually stands for cardiovascular exercise. It is one of the main types of exercise that we as humans can engage in. When you do cardio you are working out your heart and circulatory system. Therefore when you do exercises that strain your heart and cardiovascular system or make them work harder than normal, you are doing cardio. Cardio can include things like biking, swimming, jogging and running, stair climbing, playing soccer or other running sports, and even circuit training too. Generally speaking, any exercise that raises your heart rate up to 50 or even 75 percent of your maximum heart rate is considered to be cardiovascular exercise. If you are moving around and realize that your heart is pounding fast and hard and that your chest is heaving up and down, you can rest assured that you are working out your cardiovascular system.
Benefit #1: It Is Great For Your Heart
One of the very best benefits that you get from doing any form of cardiovascular exercise is that it is very good for your heart. Your heart is just like other muscles in your body, in the sense that exercising it only serves to make it stronger and more efficient.
Doing cardiovascular exercise for your heart is like doing weighted curls for your biceps. Anything that makes your heart work at an increased rate will train it and end up making it healthier and better at its job.
Doing cardiovascular exercise helps to increase the efficiency at which your heart can pump blood around your body. This is good for you because it means that your heart does not have to work as hard to pump the same amount of blood around your body as it usually would. This means that you will have a lower resting heart rate and it helps to decrease high blood pressure too, both things which help to preserve the health of your heart and increase its lifespan.
A more efficient heart also helps to increase your physical performance because your heart forces blood and oxygen to travel to all of your muscles, and the more of those goodies that your muscles get the harder they can work and the longer they can function at increased output levels.
Moreover, a healthy heart also helps to prevent the buildup of bad cholesterol, something that can cause strokes and heart attacks, plus it helps to reduce the chances of suffering from heart disease, it combats arterial disease, and even more too.
Cardiovascular exercise helps create and maintain a strong and healthy heart, which in the long run has the ability to prevent numerous diseases and detrimental conditions, not to mention that it increases your ability to engage in physically demanding exercises too.
Benefit #2: Increasing Circulation
Like we touched on before, cardiovascular exercise leads to having a healthier and more efficient heart, and that ultimately leads to a better circulatory system too. Having better circulation is important in a number of different ways. First of all, your muscles and various organs need a constant supply of oxygen, blood, and nutrients to do their respective jobs.
Since a healthy heart means that your body has an easier time circulating blood, it means that the various parts of your body receive more of the things they need to be healthy and do their jobs. It literally helps all of the muscles and organs in your body function better. It helps your liver and other internal organs increase their efficiency, and it helps you to increase your physical output too.
Moreover, a healthy circulatory system means that blood flows at a fairly high rate, and that means that it is harder for bad cholesterol to build up, something that can be very dangerous for your body in a number of ways.
On a side note, many people suffer from tingling feelings in the extremities or even numbness. This can be caused by nerve damage, which can sometimes be caused by a lack of blood flow and oxygen. Therefore, a healthy circulatory system means that all of your nerve endings will stay healthy, thus reducing tingling or numb sensations.
Benefit #3: Creating Healthy Lungs
Yet another awesome benefit that you can get from engaging in regular cardiovascular exercise is that it helps to maintain a healthy breathing system in your body. Just like cardiovascular exercise helps your heart grow stronger and more efficient, it also helps do the same things for your lungs.
It’s kind of like a beneficial cycle because the more you exercise the stronger your lungs get, and the stronger your lungs get the more you can exercise. Having a stronger pair of lungs in your chest leads to increased physical performance because like we mentioned before, your muscles need oxygen to survive.
Working out your lungs through cardiovascular exercise helps create more alveoli, which are the things that absorb oxygen. Therefore your body can absorb more oxygen, and on that same note, cardiovascular exercise helps increase your VO2 Max, which is the rate at which your lungs can process oxygen, put it in your blood, and send it around your body. Thus, more efficient lungs result in an increased ability to absorb and process oxygen, thus providing your body with more of that oh so important O2.
Not only does having stronger lungs help increase your ability to perform physical exercise, but it also helps keeps your lungs in top shape and prevent breathing related conditions. This is quite beneficial for your everyday life and having more oxygen in your system comes in handy for sports and even for things like walking up a few flights of stairs.
If you get winded all of the time, the right solution might be to engage in some cardio exercise to make them stronger. Your body needs oxygen to survive and function, and cardiovascular exercise helps to provide increased levels of it to your body.
Benefit #4: Making You Happier & Reducing Depression, Stress, and Anxiety
Cardiovascular exercise helps to make you a happier person. This is in part because it helps make you stronger, fitter, more capable of physical output, and it makes your body look better in your full body length mirror too, but that is not really what we are getting at here. Cardiovascular exercise is great for your mental health because of something that we know as the runner’s high, which is a release of various feel happy chemicals by your brain.
When you exercise, it stimulates your brain to produce more of the neurochemicals which it usually produces. Exercise is known to stimulate your brain to create increased amounts of various neurochemicals such as dopamine, endocannabinoids, and serotonin. We aren’t going to get into the exact difference between each of these brain chemicals, but in the long run, they all have similar effects.
The bottom line is that these various chemicals work together to produce sensations of happiness, joy, elation, relaxation, pain relief, and a variety of other feel happy sensations. This means that cardiovascular exercise literally has the ability to make you a happier person.
Moreover, it can also help to reduce the effects of anxiety, stop stress in its tracks, and also reduce the symptoms of depression. In essence, cardiovascular exercise gives you a kind of elated high which you might also get from eating chocolate or smoking marijuana (endocannabinoids are present in marijuana). If you suffer from stress, anxiety, or depression, then cardio exercise might be the best solution to relieving them.
Benefit #5: Weight Loss & An Efficient Metabolism
Something else that many forms of cardiovascular exercise can do for you is to help you burn calories, lose weight, and increase the efficiency of your metabolism. Working out your cardiovascular system is highly energy intensive.
That energy needed to fuel your exercise routine comes from the calories that you eat. Therefore, exercising requires an increased number of calories to be able to do, thus burning away those 6 slices of pizza you packed down for lunch.
There is more to it than that because if your body does not have readily available calories from food, it will turn to other sources to convert into energy that you need to exercise. One of the first things that your body will turn to for energy when there is a lack of calories is your fat reserves.
Thus, exercising with an empty or near empty stomach will directly contribute to weight loss. How many calories are burned and how much weight is lost does depend on the intensity level of the cardio exercise that you are doing.
It goes even further than that because cardio exercise is shown to increase the efficiency of your metabolism, which means that your body burns more calories and fat than it usually would. Moreover, cardiovascular exercise also increases your EPOC or exercise post oxygen consumption.
In other words, your body will continue to burn an increased amount of calories long after you have finished exercising. A revved up metabolism helps lead to weight loss and you don’t even have to exercise all day long to get these weight loss benefits. Cardiovascular exercise is a great way to get rid of those love handles and man boobs.
Benefit #6: More Energy & Better Sleep
Another thing that will benefit from a regular cardiovascular exercise routine is that it will help provide you with more energy throughout the day. Engaging in this kind of exercise helps to stimulate your brain to create certain neurochemicals, some of which we have mentioned before.
Many of these chemicals, due to making you feel happier, also help to make you more energized. It’s a common fact that people who are depressed usually also suffer from a lack of energy. Well, exercising right in the beginning of the day helps to give you a better outlook on the day that is to come. It’s a really good way to get the blood flowing and to get your brain working.
On the other hand, exercise also helps to give you a better sleep at night time. A large part of this is because it uses up energy. Simply put, a good bout of cardiovascular exercise will help tire you out, which is of course a good way to get to sleep.
A good bout of exercise will also stimulate the brain to create the neurochemicals which lull us to sleep at night time. Don’t worry though, because exercise helps to regulate your sleep schedule by regulating the creation of sleep chemicals. It’s not like you are going to fall asleep right away after exercise. It simply means that your brain will help get you to sleep at the proper time.
Benefit #7: Increased Confidence
Yet another benefit that you can get from engaging in regular cardiovascular exercise is that it will make you feel much more confident in yourself. For one reason, this is because cardiovascular exercise makes you healthier, as we talked about in several previous points. When you are healthy it means that you can feel confident in your life and your long lifespan.
Moreover, cardiovascular exercise requires a certain amount of motivation and dedication, especially to progress to a better fitness level. This can make you feel more confident in your own ability to muster the focus and determination to actually exercise.
Even better is that you can feel more confident in your own appearance. It’s much more rewarding to look in the mirror after a few months of cardiovascular exercise than before you started, not to mention that getting a date will be much easier too. Exercise and getting back into good shape is a great way to increase your own self-worth and self-confidence.
Benefit #8: Helps Improve Cognitive Function
Something else that is to be gained from doing cardio is that it can help improve cognitive function. The increased amount of blood flow, oxygen, and nutrients that get delivered throughout your body, as discussed in previous points, also affects your brain.
It is shown that exercise, through increased blood and oxygen flow, as well as for some other mysterious reasons, causes the brain to create more neurons. Neurons are the cells in your brain which fire and receive signals, the signals which dictate every single function in your body, and also dictate your thought process.
An ever growing number of neurons in your brain will lead to having better brain function. Things like logical thought processes and problem-solving skills can definitely benefit from increased numbers of neurons and electrical impulses shooting around your brain.
Another aspect that benefits from this is your memory. It is shown that your memory, both long term and short term, can be greatly improved from exercise such as this. It is even shown that people who are prone to developing or already suffering from conditions such as Alzheimer’s or Huntington’s can also benefit from cardiovascular exercise. The detrimental memory related effects of these diseases can be slowed down through some simple exercise.
Benefit #9: Improving Endurance & Physical Performance
A next benefit that comes along with engaging in regular cardiovascular exercise is that it will help improve your endurance, stamina, and overall physical performance. First off, your muscles need oxygen and blood to function properly, and more so when you are exercising. Since this form of exercise helps to increase the efficiency of both your heart and lungs, it helps to deliver your muscles with more of the things they need to keep working longer and harder.
The more blood and oxygen they get, the longer they can function for. It’s a neat little cycle because the more you exercise, the more efficient your body gets, and the more efficient it gets the more you can exercise, thus forming a never ending cycle of improvement. Furthermore, cardiovascular exercise also makes your muscles stronger and more durable.
Having stronger muscles means that they can work harder without getting tired, which in layman’s terms means that you have more muscular endurance. As you can see, cardiovascular exercise can help improve your endurance in more ways than one, and this comes in quite handy for your everyday life. Everything from carrying groceries and playing with your children to walking up a few flights of stairs is all made much easier thanks to some much needed endurance.
Benefit #10: A Good Complement To Weight Training
Sure, weight training is fantastic because it helps to increase your muscle size and muscle strength, and it holds many other benefits too. However, the fact of the matter is that strength training has vastly different benefits when compared to cardiovascular exercise. Each of these types of exercise come with their own specific benefits and they complement each other quite nicely.
It makes no sense to engage in weight training without doing some cardio too. Both of them together are the best way to make a fit and healthy you. One works to increase your stability, strength, and muscle size, and the other works to create a healthy heart and lungs, and increase your endurance too. Together they make the ultimate package of health.
Benefit #11: Muscle Training
We know that we just said that cardiovascular exercise is a great complement to weight training, and that weight training is what really strengthens your muscles, but that does not mean that cardiovascular exercise does not also function to increase muscle size and strength.
There are many different forms of cardiovascular exercise. Running helps to increase the strength of your legs, cycling helps increase the strength of your legs and core, and swimming strengthens all of the muscles in your body. Each type of cardiovascular exercise, even the simplest and most routine ones, all work to strengthen your muscles in one way or another.
Having strong muscles is of course convenient for a number of things. Bigger and more durable muscles make physical performance easier, they help you to run faster and jump higher, you can lift more, and you can do absolutely everything with increased ease. Seriously, who doesn’t want bigger muscles? Also while cardiovascular exercise may not be as good for muscle building as weight training, it is still better than nothing at all.
Benefit #12: Controlling Diabetes
The next benefit that you can reap from some regular cardiovascular exercise is that it will help you control diabetes. In simplest terms, diabetes and high blood sugar levels have to do with your body’s inability to process glucose, thus leaving too much of it floating around in your system.
Exercising on a regular basis helps your body, and moreover your muscles, metabolize glucose at a much quicker rate, thus reducing the levels in your blood and also reducing blood sugar level swings. Anybody who has diabetes will know that controlling blood glucose levels is absolutely vital to controlling your diabetes and living a long life with this debilitating condition.
Benefit #13: A Stronger Immune System
Your immune system will definitely benefit from doing some cardiovascular exercise. This is because your immune system’s main component is the white blood cell. The white blood cell is the frontline defender in your system that rushes to the scene of sickness or infection to ward off harmful viruses and other diseases. These white blood cells create the antibodies specific to the infection or disease at hand.
It is shown that regular cardiovascular exercise increases the number of white blood cells that your body creates, thus there are more front line defenders to fight those unwanted visitors. Moreover, a stronger heart and circulatory system mean that your body can pump an increased amount of blood, and thus white blood cells to the scene of the crime, therefore overcoming any intruder to your body with overwhelming force.
Benefit #14: Increased Bone Health
Not all, but many different forms of cardiovascular exercise help to produce bigger and stronger bones. This is not true for all type of cardiovascular exercise, but it is true for those that put pressure, stress, or increased weight on your bones, otherwise known as weight bearing exercises. Things like running, jumping jacks, and even cycling to a certain degree count as weight bearing exercises.
This type of exercise helps to build stronger bones by stimulating your osteoblasts to lay down more bone matter. Your osteoblasts are the cells in your bones, which when stimulated, create new bone mass. They are stimulated through weight bearing exercises, much like your muscles are stimulated to grow through weight training exercises.
Therefore, the more you run, the bigger and stronger your bones will get. Denser and stronger bones are vital to prevent bone fractures and breaks, plus it also helps to prevent or at least combat degenerative bone diseases such as osteoporosis.
Cardiovascular exercise is often regarded as one of the cornerstones to a long and healthy life, and as you can see, based on all of the benefits we have talked about, that is most definitely true. The benefits of cardio will go a very long way in keeping you healthy for as long as you live, not to mention that they make you live longer in general. Your heart, lungs, muscles, confidence, mood, and brain function, plus a whole lot more, all benefit from cardiovascular exercise.
If you have any questions about cardio, just leave us a comment below and we will get back to you as soon as possible!