Cardio: What Is It Really Good For?

Whether you hide when you hear the word, or you feel like running for miles, cardio is definitely good for you. But what exactly happens inside your body from doing cardio (short for cardiovascular exercise). Well the short version of the story is that it makes your heart stronger (not in a Taylor Swift sort of way). The long version is precisely what we’re getting into.

strong heartImproved Heart Health

This is the big one. This is why it suggested that you get at least 30 minutes of cardio three times a week (though many people like to get a lot more). But like any muscle, you heart becomes stronger by working it out. If you fail to do this, as you get older a variety of what was once preventable heart conditions could manifest. So if you’re getting winded walking up that flight of stairs and you’re only 28, its time to hit the track and get that heart into shape!

Taking Off the Pounds
This is another main reason why people do cardio. It’s probably the best way to lose weight. With about 70% of Americans over the age of 20 being obese or overweight, it’s probably about time that America did a bit more of this. The equation for this is rather simple: expend more calories than you take in. No need for fad diets or diet pills. Just eat less and do more cardio.

Another added benefit besides burning calories that cardio gives you is a boost to your metabolism. The more intense your cardio workout, the more your metabolic rate will increase. Probably the best kind of exercise to do this are called High-intensity interval training (HIIT).  HIIT is a series of high intensity exercises separated with medium intensity exercises for recovery, and then ended with cool-down exercises.

ellipticalCancer Prevention

Although most people don’t really think of this when you say cardio, getting enough aerobic exercise actually decreases your chances for getting certain kinds of cancer. It is clear that with 30-60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity cardio a day that your chances for cancer decrease drastically. For men, this means a reduction in colon cancer rates by about 30-40% in comparison to men who are inactive. For women there is a 20-30% reduction in breast cancer rates in comparison to people who are inactive. If you get more than 30-60 minutes a day of cardio, the rates of cancer drop even further. This is a big deal. If there was some kind of cancer treatment that cured 300 out of 1000 cases of breast cancer, it would be called a medical miracle. That miracle is simply exercise.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy
Cardio not only makes you more physically healthy, it also benefits your mental health as well. Most runners already know that there is a “runner’s high” or that you simply feel good after running. But according to a number of studies that investigate the effects of exercise on depression,  doing cardio three to five times a week  for 12 weeks  decreased scores on a depression questionnaire by 47%. This is not to say that you can “run away from depression” but it is certainly something to consider for prevention or even treatment of mild depression.

In a study of over 3,000 people by the Diabetes Prevention Program, high risk individuals who lost 12-15 pounds and walked 150 minutes per week for three years  reduced their risk of diabetes by 58%. Considering that there are 1,000,000 new cases of diabetes diagnosed every year, this is a quite a significant statistic. Aerobic exercise also improves insulin resistance which is a condition where the body does not use insulin properly, which occurs in people who have diabetes and those who don’t.

So for those of you who hate to hear the word cardio, get used to it. It’s one of the best things you can do for your body, and if you want to live longer (and be mobile longer) it is simply a fact of life. So don’t run away from your problems, run to fix them!

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