When it comes to fitness, the sorts of activities one can do generally fall into one of two categories: cardio and strength training. Strength training – also known as resistance training – involves the use of dead weights and gym machines to develop and grow muscle while burning fat. Meanwhile, cardio – also known as aerobic exercise – involves rhythmic physical activity meant to increase heart rate.
There are benefits to both forms of exercise. In fact, most experts will tell you the ideal fitness regimen involves alternating between cardio and strength training throughout the week. However, cardiovascular exercise is the way to go for those looking for a simple and effective way to get into shape while shedding unwanted pounds. That’s because several types of aerobic exercise can be performed without expensive gym equipment.
Let’s take a look at several benefits of cardiovascular exercise:
Improved Heart Health
It sounds counterintuitive, but the harder the heart works, the healthier it becomes over time. That’s because the heart is a muscle, and the use it or lose it nature of muscle tissue means the less exercise you get, the weaker your heart becomes. As a result, committing to regular aerobic exercise will lead to improved heart health.
The way you feel after going up a flight of stairs is a reliable indicator of your physical endurance; if you arrive at the top feeling winded, it might be time to get back into shape. The good news is that increased endurance is one of the greatest benefits of cardio exercise. With this in mind, if you find yourself huffing and puffing after a single flight of stairs, consider cycling, running, swimming, or some other form of cardio.
Most people choose to exercise for one reason: weight loss. There’s nothing wrong with making an honest effort to lose weight, and aerobic exercise is one of the most effective ways of making it happen. It’s a simple matter of physics; the more calories you burn while doing cardio, the greater the caloric deficit becomes, so long as you stick to a balanced diet. What’s more, cardio boosts your metabolism, further expediting the weight loss process.
Cardio exercise has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. When you do cardio, your body releases endorphins, which are natural feel-good chemicals that can improve your mood and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. As a result, the more cardio you do, the less stress and anxiety you experience. While fitness isn’t some magic way to remove stress and anxiety, it’s an effective means of feeling less bogged down and defeated when confronted with stress-inducing events and situations.
Remember how you slept like a baby for the first 20 years of your life? What happened? We’re willing to bet you were more active back then. Regular cardio exercise helps improve sleep quality. When you do cardio, your body temperature increases, and your body releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which can help you feel more alert during the day. However, as your body cools down after your workout, it can help you relax and fall asleep more easily at night.
Fewer Health Risks
What do diabetes, heart attacks, and strokes have in common? In addition to being potentially deadly, all three are less likely to happen if you’re physically active. As a result, cardio may help reduce the risk of these and other chronic diseases. What’s more, regular aerobic exercise strengthens muscles and bones, putting your body in a better position to handle injuries and recover from them.
Improved Brain Function
There’s an unfortunate trope connecting increased physical fitness with reduced cognitive function (the “dumb jock” stereotype.) But all evidence points to the contrary: studies suggest cardio exercise improves brain function. When you do cardio, your body increases blood flow to your brain, which can help improve cognitive function, memory, and overall brain health.
Generally speaking, exercise falls into two categories: cardio and strength. There are benefits to both. However, for those with limited time and limited resources who need better health and wellness, cardio is the way to go for all the reasons outlined above.