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What are the benefits of cardiovascular exercise?

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Cardiovascular exercise is one of your most powerful tools against poor health and chronic illness. The benefits of regular aerobic exercise include lowered disease risk, increased cognitive ability, and improved physical fitness—all of which compound to create an effective and lasting weight loss program.

And the best part is that you don’t have to have an expensive gym membership or a bunch of complicated equipment to reap these benefits.

Instead, all that you have to do is get moving

We’ve put together this informative guide to outline the benefits of cardiovascular exercise, how much activity you need, and the top exercises you can do today to start seeing results. With this guide, you might hopefully figure out ways to work out at home and how to create a workout plan that works for you.

Benefits of regular cardiovascular exercise

Cardiovascular exercise refers to any exercise or activity that raises your heart and breathing rate. When your heart and lungs work harder, the flow of oxygen throughout your body increases. This is what jumpstarts the beneficial effects of cardio. 

The benefits you get from aerobic exercise are critical to your overall good health and weight loss success. Let’s break down how cardiovascular exercise impacts your body in more detail.

Reduction of disease risk

Following a simple weekly aerobic exercise routine reduces your risk for several deadly diseases by improving your physical condition. As a result, you might live a longer, happier, healthier life. The most noticeable disease-fighting benefits include:

Stronger heart

Your heart is a muscle. Like all of your other muscles, it needs to be worked to get stronger. A stronger heart:

  • Beats less frequently

  • It is more efficient with each pump 

  • Moves blood through your body more effectively

These three outcomes add up to give you a heart that is less susceptible to decline and disease.

Lower blood pressure

When your heart pumps more efficiently, it pushes out more blood with each beat. This decreases your blood pressure. Since high blood pressure is a significant risk factor for heart disease, you can see how these two benefits work together to lower your risk of a heart attack as you get older. 

Regulated blood sugar

Regular cardiovascular activities can also result in stabilized blood sugar levels. According to Johns Hopkins, a balanced exercise plan including aerobic and strength training reduces your risk of developing diabetes by over 50 percent. This is because your muscles can process glycogen more effectively when you work out regularly.

Stronger immune system

Frequent aerobic exercise even makes your immune system stronger. When you work out, your body increases its production of inflammation battling white blood cells. You might find that you get fewer colds and other illnesses as you get more physically fit.

Lowers bad cholesterol

Finally, aerobic exercise lowers your LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels while increasing the HDL or “good” cholesterol. High levels of LDL are associated with several significant health problems, including: 

  • Narrow arteries

  • Strokes

  • Heart attacks

  • Blood clots

The decreased risks of these chronic health problems alone are excellent motivation to get moving. 

Boosts your brain

Many people don’t realize that aerobic exercise is also critical to optimal brain health and function. When you develop an exercise habit, you notice a significant improvement in your:

  • Mood – Exercise has long been recognized as a mood booster. The “runner’s high” concept describes the feeling you get when endorphins are released after your workout. The amount of time you’ll feel elated post-exercise varies by person and by the intensity of your workout.

  • Stress levels – Aerobic exercise also helps you better manage daily stressors by inducing stress-related hormone release as you work out. This shows your body how to better deal with stress and reduces stress’s negative impact on your heart and immune systems.

  • Sleep quality – A study by the Department of Neurology at Northwestern University found that moderate aerobic exercise helped improve sleep quality and reduced the amount of time it took for subjects to fall asleep each night.

  • Energy – Lastly, when you get better sleep, you have more energy throughout the day. Thus, you can exercise more and begin the brain-boosting cycle again.

These brain gains are interdependent on each other. When they’re all working together, you’ll notice a significant improvement in your overall mental health.

Stronger body

Finally, cardiovascular exercise helps you build a stronger body. When you adhere to a regular fitness routine, you’ll develop:

Higher exercise tolerance

If you’re wondering, “how much exercise do you need a day?” The answer depends on how much you can handle and how far into your fitness journey you are at a given point in time. However, the more you exercise, the easier it becomes as your tolerance improves. Your heart, lungs, and muscles adapt to stress from working out, and, in time, your fitness activities will feel less difficult. In turn, this is a signal that you might be able to push yourself a little harder. Exercising more frequently or intensely will ratchet up the calorie-burning power of your workout routine.

Powerful muscles

Aerobic exercise uses your large muscle groups, such as:

  • Legs

  • Core

  • Arms

  • Chest

  • Glutes

  • Hips

The regular use of these groups helps develop strength. Stronger muscles are less susceptible to injury, which allows you to keep your workout routine on track.

Calorie-burning metabolism

Cardiovascular activities burn calories quickly, leading to greater weight loss than dieting alone. In fact, a study in the research journal Obesity analyzed the impact of regular aerobic exercise on subjects without changing their calorie intake. The study discovered that those who exercised five days per week for ten months lost weight, while those who didn’t exercise gained weight.

When you combine the power of exercise with a healthy diet and lifestyle, you’re giving yourself the best possible chance to meet your weight loss goals.

Moderate and vigorous cardiovascular activities

The American Heart Association recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity every week. Moderate aerobic exercise will raise your heart and breathing rates but as a rule of thumb, you should still be able to speak while performing the activity. 

Vigorous physical activity increases your breathing and heart rate to a higher level. Speaking should be difficult during vigorous exercise.

Your best approach is to break these up throughout the week. For example, you can exercise for 30 minutes, five days per week. Alternatively, you can break the 30-minute sessions into shorter bouts throughout the day if that works better for your schedule. You’ll still get the same benefits with mini-sessions as you would with the longer ones.

Moderate cardiovascular exercises

It’s easier than you think to get in the recommended amount of moderate aerobic exercise every day. Some activities that’ll help you reach your goal include:

  • Brisk walking

  • Swimming gentle laps

  • Riding a stationary bike

  • Cycling on a flat outdoor path

  • Stair climbing

  • Dancing

  • Using an elliptical trainer

  • Hiking

  • Water aerobics

  • Mowing the lawn

  • Gardening

  • Cleaning your house

As you can see, many of these require little to no equipment outside of comfortable shoes and clothing. It’s highly advisable to start slowly and build your stamina before trying more vigorous exercises. This will help prevent injuries as you work to improve your fitness.

Vigorous cardiovascular activities

Once you’ve established a moderate aerobic routine, you can begin to add more vigorous bouts to your workouts. These activities will give your fitness a big boost:

  • Running or jogging

  • Cycling over hilly terrain

  • Cardio-kickboxing

  • Playing singles tennis

  • Swimming laps 

  • Basketball

  • Interval training

  • Jumping rope

Remember, vigorous activities take some time to work up to. Don’t expect to be able to perform them at the very beginning of your fitness journey. Once you’re ready to challenge yourself a little more, you can do so in three ways:

  • Increase speed

  • Add resistance

  • Increase duration

Selecting one method of ramping up your workouts at a time will provide you with a solid test of your fitness levels.

Fight your best fight with Found

Cardiovascular exercise is critical to weight loss and overall good health. Simple moderate or vigorous activities prevent deadly diseases, boost your brain, and get your body in better physical condition. Meeting the American Heart Association’s recommendation for aerobic exercise is achievable with a bit of planning and dedication.

Unfortunately, sometimes your body works against you, even when you’re working hard and sticking to your weight loss plan. That’s where we dive in to assist. At Found, we emphasize a scientific approach, supplemented with highly personal support to help you lose weight and improve your health. 

Take our quiz today to see if we’re the right choice for you.

Sources: 

Cleveland Clinic. What is Aerobic Exercise? https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/7050-aerobic-exercise

Mayo Clinic. Aerobic Exercise: Top 10 Reasons to Get Physical. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/aerobic-exercise/art-20045541

American Heart Association. Exercise Can Help You Manage Blood Pressure and More. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure/getting-active-to-control-high-blood-pressure#.Ww_2FmaZOi4

Johns Hopkins. 7 Heart Benefits of Exercise. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/7-heart-benefits-of-exercise

Neuroendocrinology. The Effects of Exercise on the Immune System and Stress Hormones In Sportswomen. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.567.3215&rep=rep1&type=pdf

NHS Inform. High Cholesterol. https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/blood-and-lymph/high-cholesterol

Mayo Clinic. Exercise and Stress: Get Moving to Manage Stress. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/exercise-and-stress/art-20044469

Science Direct. Aerobic Exercise Improves Self-Reported Sleep and Quality of Life In Older Adults with Insomnia. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1389945710002868?via%3Dihub

Obesity. Aerobic Exercise Alone Results in Clinically Significant Weight Loss For Men and Women. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/oby.20145

American Heart Association. American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults?utm_source=redirect_heartorg&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=301#.Ww_HpWaZOi4

CDC. How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need? https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm

Cleveland Clinic. Aerobic Exercise. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/7050-aerobic-exercise

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