Many of us are confused about what to do because there are conflicting opinons about how much cardio we really need. The guidelines published by the American College of Sports Medicine suggest 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise 5 days a week, or vigorous cardio 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week. For weight loss, you might need even more (up to 60-90 minutes) dep
Our Bodies Are Made to Move
If you have a sedentary job, think about how your body feels at end of the day. Do you have tight muscles, an aching back, feel exhausted even though you haven't done anything physical? Maybe your shoulders burn from tension and your head hurts from staring at a computer screen for too long. Now, think about how your body feels after a workout. Your muscles are warm and flexible, the blood is pumping through your body, providing oxygen and energy. You feel energized, confident, proud of yourself and ready to take on the world. It's much different, isn't it? Our bodies are made to move--not sit around all day and yet, that's exactly what we're doing.
Next, take a moment to remember all the benefits of
• Weight loss
• Stronger heart and lungs
• Increased bone density
• Reduced stress
• Reduced risk of heart disease and some types of cancer
• Temporary relief from depression and anxiety
• More confidence about how you feel and how you look
• Better sleep
• More energy
• Setting a good example for your kids to stay active as they get older
Notice that weight loss, while a big focus for many people, is only one benefit of cardio. Despite that, weight loss is often our only goal and not just for health, but to look good. While there's nothing wrong with wanting to look good, having that as our only goal can make exercise harder. Why? Because losing weight takes time...what happens if you don't see results on your timetable? Where will your motivation go if the scale doesn't cooperate? Open your mind to other reasons to exercise--you might just find new ways to make exercising easier.
During your cardio workout, your breath quickens and your heart rate speeds up to increase the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream. Regular cardio conditions your heart, lungs and blood vessels to become more efficient at transporting oxygen to your muscles. Just as you can lift a little more weight each week as your muscles get stronger, you will be able to work out for longer with reduced fatigue as you strengthen your heart and lungs.
According to a study in the Journal of Health Psychology, the act of working out improves overall satisfaction with your body. Even if participants had not yet met their fitness goals, the study reports, they felt the same level of body satisfaction as those who had. Additionally, aerobic exercise can ease depression, reduce anxiety and aid in relaxation.
REDUCE YOUR HEALTH RISK
Regular cardio activity can lower cholesterol and blood pressure while reducing your risk of developing conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity and some cancers. Walking, jogging and other weight-bearing exercises build up bone strength, reducing your risk of osteoporosis.
Individuals who walk the equivalent of 30 minutes per day significantly reduce their risk of premature death, says Dr. Steven Blair in a study he conducted with the Institute for Aerobics Research. According to the Mayo Clinic, three 30-minute aerobic sessions per week can slow cognitive decline in elderly adults. Not only can cardio help you to live longer, it helps you live with a better quality of life for longer.
Cardio for Better Quality of Life
Appearance is important. That's why we take a shower every day, make sure our clothes match and check that we don't have anything green stuck in our teeth. But we worry that we've gotten so obsessed with how we look that we no longer care about how we feel. If you look at the benefits listed above, all of them translate into feeling good now and in the future. Despite that, we still seem more entranced with getting six-pack abs than feeling good, both physically and mentally.
Have we forgotten that being active can make our lives better? Moving around increases blood flow to our muscles, strengthens the heart and lungs and teaches the heart to work more efficiently. Not only that, when you exercise you set a good example for your kids to do the same, which could mean a better future for them.