Hate the treadmill? What about the boring ol’ stationary bike?
Oh. So you avoid doing cardio because of these things? Well here’s some great news – cardio simply refers to any activity that elevates your heart rate, and benefits come from it being sustained at various ranges for periods of time. So your soccer game, a great hike, rollerblading, dancing, sex…it all counts.
If the field is rained out, or your favourite hike is closed, or maybe you even think “I’m skinny, I don’t need to lose body fat.” Consider the following reasons to keep your body healthy through cardio and jump on the treadmill or bike or aerobics class once in a while – it’ll do your body good. Promise!
- Decrease blood pressure
The tendency for cholesterol plaques to build up in the artery walls are lessened due to increased levels of high-density-lipoproteins (HDL’s) due to aerobic activity. HDL’s carry these fats to the liver for dismantling. The health and functioning of the arteries is enhanced promoting a better blood transport system.
- Clear and efficient thinking
The sector of the brain responsible for learning and memory, the hippocampus, may also get a boost from aerobic exercise. Aerobic activity may increase the levels of neurotransmitters – the chemicals that transfer information between neurons. Aerobic activity may help forestall some degenerative conditions as dementia later in life.
- A stronger heart
Your heart adapts to the exercise load imposed on it, and like any muscle, it increases in size and capacity! As it becomes stronger and a more efficient pump, the increased volume of blood pumped per stroke attributes to the lower heart rates seen in athletes. The vessel tree around the heart also enlarges. Any workload put on your heart when you exercise and during day-to-day activities is also now lessened. Even better, as strength and endurance capacity improves, this means your body has the increased the ability to take in, utilize and transport oxygen to your working muscles.
- Better performance
When you perform cardio consistently, your body adapts to this challenge by creating an expanded delivery network to fuel your fat-burning muscles. Exercise initiates a process called capillarization, the addition of new capillaries that nurture your muscles. This is an adaptation response due to “stress” enabling the body to become more efficient at handling this stress. The best part? By ensuring more effective and efficient delivery of oxygen and nutrients to your exercising muscles, you are able to physically perform at a higher level. The oxygen carrying capacity of the blood also increases.
- Get sick less often
Did you know that colds and the flu are less likely to strike or take out the aerobically fit? In proper amounts (and with adequate recovery, rest and nutrition) your body’s immune system improves with aerobic exercise. The increased circulation of natural “killer cells” in the blood, set in motion by exercise, can stop upper-respiratory-tract infections, colds, and can even “kill” a host of other diseases before they can take you out.
- Sleep better
Both quality and quantity of your sleep can be improved through aerobic exercise during (just keep in mind that you want to complete it about 3 hours before bed). This ultimately leads to better alertness, concentration, mood, and better health. The “Better Sleep Council” lists exercise among its 10 Better Sleep Tips. One study showed that exercisers enjoyed a greater amount, and quality of deep sleep – including the critical stage of REM sleep. Participants also reported that they had an easier time falling asleep than their sedentary counterparts. (That alone makes me want to do more cardio!)
- Improve your Metabolism
Aerobic activity burns calories and targets fat as an energy source. Adaptations occur in those muscles that are used, especially the way the muscles utilize fuel, as well as in the level of fat burning enzymes in the muscles. Over a period of about one or two months, the metabolism shifts from using primarily carbohydrates to burning a significantly higher proportion of fat during exercise, and even when not exercising.
- Feel better every day
Maintain (or upgrade) your physical and mental health! Biochemical changes in the brain are thought to be responsible for another reward of exercise: mood boost. Aerobic exercise (as long as you don’t over train) elevates mood and eases the symptoms of mild and even major depression.
- Decrease body fat, improve muscle tone
Aerobic exercise is one great mechanism for weight control as it is effective in burning calories during activity and in lowering your body-fat percentage. Some activities can even increase lean tissue. While it’s not a magic bullet for weight control, it can be an integral activity that contributes to whole body fitness.
- Better body image, improved confidence
When you realize that the main reason you feel and look better is because you have taken full control of your health and fitness! Not only did you develop a better self-body image, but you also realized that you were the force that made it possible to achieving your goals, overcoming obstacles, and made yourself a priority in life! To us, this is the most exciting factor of improved fitness. You look amazing, you feel amazing and you feel like you can tackle anything! Now go conquer the world!