We’ve all seen folks in the gym sitting on the exercise bike leafing through a magazine; or ambling on treadmill while they ogle their iPad. They’ve taken the essential first step of going to the gym but they’re cheating themselves of the right cardio exercise benefits.
Cardio fitness is essential. If your heart, lungs and circulatory system aren’t healthy nothing will go right for you. That means you need to get your heart rate up! Maximum heart rate varies with age and fitness level, so it isn’t about hitting an arbitrary number, but about safely pushing your limits. You can do this quickly with high intensity interval training or with steady aerobic exercise like swimming, jogging or hiking.
Boost your heart rate, here are 10 key benefits.
- Increases arterial flexibility: When you get your heart pumping the arteries are forced to expand to accommodate the increased blood flow. Do it regularly and –bingo! – your arteries get more flexible, reducing your risk of heart problems.
- Boosts lung capacity: Proper cardio challenges your lungs, expanding their capacity so that you can take in more air.
- Improves physical efficiency: Both heart and lungs also become more efficient with training, which means your lungs get better at absorbing oxygen and you lower your resting heart rate.
- Increases power: Your muscles need oxygen to perform and cardio training builds your body’s capacity to deliver it during intense exercise, or work. This means you can run faster, jump higher, or lift more.
- Builds endurance: Regular cardio increases your total body endurance. As your efficiency increases you have more reserve energy, allowing you to train (or hike, or dance, or play touch football) for longer.
- Reduces blood pressure: By temporarily increasing your blood pressure, cardio improves arterial flexibility and expands the small blood vessels called capillaries, which ultimately reduces blood pressure.
- Flushes toxins: Getting the blood pumping is vital for clearing waste matter like lactic acid and carbon dioxide out of your cells. Think of it as throwing open the windows to a musty room and letting a fresh breeze blow out the stale air!
- Strengthens immune system: Cardio combats the common cold. And just about every other disease. It activates your immune system and, as noted above, eliminates toxins, so you have a better chance at staying healthy day-to-day.
- Controls blood sugar: Aerobic exercise calls on your muscles to use glucose, aka sugar, for fuel. Regular cardio helps burn through blood sugar before it can turn to fat, reducing your risk of obesity and diabetes.
- Releases endorphins: Cardio is like a joy-ride for your brain because it triggers the release of endorphins in your brain. These feel-good chemicals fight stress, depression and anxiety, leaving you relaxed and even euphoric after a good exercise session.