I think we all know cardio benefits our hearts, but that is not all! Here is how cardio affects your whole body.
- Brain: increases blood flow and decreases chances of stroke; improves memory and thinking ability; combats decline in brain functioning with age
- Skin: increases circulation, leading to clearer, healthier skin
- Blood: helps control blood sugar; improves “good” cholesterol levels and lowers blood fats
- Muscles: increases oxygen supply, allowing muscles to work harder; allows muscles to adapt to an increased workload, making regular activities seem easier
- Pancreas: improves blood sugar control; decreases stress on the pancreas; reduces your chance of developing type 2 diabetes
- Lungs: helps decrease demands on lungs as exercise ability improves; helps reduce fatigue and shortness of breath in those chronic lung problems
- Weight: helps maintain a healthy weight by burning more calories throughout the day
- Bones and Joints: fights osteoporosis (when bones become brittle and fragile); helps manage arthritis discomfort; maintains joint range of motion
- Mood: boosts your mood, especially after a stressful day; combats depression; improves your self-esteem
- Anxiety and Stress: releases tension-fighting hormones: serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine
- Sleep: helps you fall asleep faster and promotes REM sleep
- Energy: releases endorphins, giving you more, lasting energy throughout the day
The following recommendations are based on the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans for how much aerobic physical activity we need to do to be healthy. At least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both spread throughout the week. That comes out to 30 minutes a day of moderate-intensity cardio 5 days a week or 15 minutes a day of vigorous cardio 5 days a week. If 30 minutes of cardio a day is too much, start slow with 10 minute bouts and gradually work your way to 30 minutes.
Breaking down the intensity levels:
- Moderate-intensity will make your heart beat faster than resting and you’ll breathe harder than normal, but you should still be able to talk.
- Vigorous intensity will require more effort and you will get out of breath and won’t be able to talk much.
Some types of moderate-intensity cardio activities are: tennis (doubles), brisk walking, cycling (slower than 10 MPH), gardening, dancing, active involvement with children or walking animals
Some types of vigorous intensity cardio activities are: tennis (singles), running, swimming laps, hiking uphill, Stairmaster, cycling (10 MPH or faster), jumping rope, basketball game, soccer game
Include these three elements into your next cardio workout:
- Warm-up – Before each cardio session, warm up for 5-10 minutes to increase blood flow to your muscles. Maybe try a lower intensity version of your planned activity.
- Conditioning – At your own pace, work up to at least 30 minutes of cardio a day.
- Cool-down – After each cardio session, cool down for 5-10 minutes. Stretch in our stretching cage, utilize the foam rollers, or stretching tables to allow your heart rate to return to normal.
Try different types of cardio until you find one you like or join one of our many group fitness classes offered here at Western for a great cardio workout!