Want to know exactly what benefits a cardio workout can have? Read on to see how they can impact you!
Most people know that strength training and lifting weights is a great way to build muscle and get stronger, but when you ask them about the benefits of cardio workouts they’ll probably be stuck for an answer.
Maybe they’ll say it helps with losing weight and perhaps they’ll mention how cardio can help you get fitter, but outside of that, most people don’t know what it actually does.
If that’s you, and you’re not entirely sure how cardio workouts can benefit you, read on. Because in this article we’re going to outline all of the benefits of cardio workouts, so you know exactly what’s happening to your body when you exercise.
What is a Cardio Workout?
Cardio is a shortened version of the word cardiovascular and when we talk about it in exercise terms, we’re referring to exercise that increases the heart rate and makes us breathe heavier.
Technically you could use weights and make it a cardio workout (like you do in Bootcamp or circuits) but in most examples, when people talk about cardio workouts, they’re referring to forms of exercise that use your aerobic system (heart and lungs) at a higher intensity for a prolonged period.
How to Get Started if You’re New
Before we outline the benefits of cardio workouts, let’s look at how you can get started if you’re new. The first thing you need to do is identify what type of cardio workout you want to try. You don’t have to stick with one workout forever, but it will give you an idea of what you like to do.
Here are the most common options:
Once you know what type of exercise you’re going to be performing, it’s important to ensure you have the right type of kit. That means shoes that are right for the exercise you’re doing and suitable clothing for the session.
If you’re new to exercise you should also consult with your doctor before beginning a new exercise regime. Once you’re ready to go, pace yourself and just get used to the exercise to limit the risk of injury.
The Benefits of a Cardio Workout
You know what we mean by cardio workout and you have an idea of the type of workouts you could be doing, now let’s take a closer look at the benefits you will enjoy.
Support Healthy Weight Loss
Cardio workouts are great for challenging your body physically, and a fantastic way to burn a lot of calories. Burning calories is the key to maintaining and losing weight, and if you can do this through exercise, and pair it with a healthy eating plan, you will start to see results on the scales in a healthy way. It will also help you to strengthen your body as you start to lose weight due to your muscles becoming stronger.
Builds a Better, Stronger Body
Regular cardio workouts can help you become a stronger, fitter individual. Not only will your muscles become stronger as they adapt to the challenge of the workout over time but you might also notice improvements in your joint health. Many of the problems people face with tightness, back pain, or general aches and pains are caused by inactivity. If you are consistently active and using your body, it will dramatically improve your overall health and fitness as you build a fitter, stronger body.
Improve Health Markers
You’ve probably heard about ‘health markers’ such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. Well as you develop a stronger, healthier body, these markers can all improve.
Research has shown that people who take part in regular forms of cardio exercise can decrease resting heart rate, blood pressure, and other vital health markers, all of which can improve your long-term health and fitness.
Reduce Chances of Heart Disease
Because cardio workouts rely on the aerobic system it should come as no surprise that regular cardio workouts will help your body and vital organs to become stronger, and fitter as the heart is able to pump blood around the body more efficiently. As a result, it lowers the risk of developing serious health issues like heart disease and other serious diseases that could prove to be fatal.
Strengthens Immune System
One study wanted to test the long-held theory that cardio workouts helped to strengthen the immune system. To do this they took two groups of women, one active and one who were sedentary, and they split them into three further groups, of which 2 groups performed exercise, and one group did not.
The results showed that both ‘exercise’ groups had an increase in antibodies in their blood which help to strengthen the immune system, but the sedentary group saw no improvement at all.
Positive for Mental Health
Although mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and stress are complex, regular cardio exercise can help, and in fact, many doctors now prescribe exercise, as a way to help with these conditions. That’s because cardio exercise releases endorphins that make you feel better and if you can get into a regular exercise routine, you will start to enjoy those feelings on a more regular basis. It’s why so many people go for a run or ride a bike to clear their head, or after a long stressful day. Because the way they feel afterwards often helps them to de-stress, and feel better than they did before.
Exercise is your body’s natural energy boost, which means you don’t need to fuel yourself with excess amounts of caffeine to stay alert and get through the day. We’ve already discussed how endorphins are released when you exercise, and how they can make you feel better.
Well, when you get that rush of endorphins it also gives you a huge boost in energy. That’s why so many people like to start their day with a cardio workout. It sets them up nicely for the day ahead and helps them start the day feeling more alert and ready to go.
If you struggle with the quality of your sleep or you find yourself sleepy during the day, cardio workouts could help. According to the sleep foundation, moderate to vigorous exercise can increase sleep quality by reducing the time it takes for you to fall asleep, and by completing cardio workouts during the day, you can benefit from a boost in energy, which also reduces how tired you feel during the day.
Undoubtedly one of the biggest benefits of cardio workouts is how cheap they are to get involved with.
As with anything, the more serious you take it the more equipment you want to buy and upgrade, but to start, you simply need your body and some suitable clothes to exercise in, then you’re set.
Whether you take up running and head outside, or you follow along with home workouts in your living room, you only need the basics to get going. That allows you to try different forms of exercise without having to spend money, and it also means you can pick up a fantastic new hobby that doesn’t require an expensive gym membership.
How Much Exercise Do you Need?
When most people think of the benefits that come with exercise they often think more is better, but the problem with that is it can often lead to injury. If you try to workout for an hour a day, every day of the week, it won’t take long for you to burn out, or hurt yourself.
To truly get the long-term benefits of exercise you should aim for consistency and if you can stick to 30 minutes of exercise 5 times a week, that will be enough. Try to make sure some of those sessions are more intense, and challenging for your body, but overall, just make sure you’re consistent and you’re performing at the right difficulty and intensity.
That will make sure you get all the essentials benefits and will help you to look, feel and move better.
Cardio Workouts and Safety
It’s always important to consult your doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially if you have any pre-existing health concerns.
Once you’ve been given the all-clear, our advice is simply to take it easy and be sensible.
Ease yourself into it and don’t try to do too much at once. Instead, focus on improving your technique and getting better week by week and have realistic expectations about your progress.
Whether you’re running, rowing, cycling, or attending classes, it’s also important you have the right equipment for the job. This doesn’t mean going out and spending a fortune to have the latest fitness fashion, but it does mean having sensible footwear and clothes that are easy to move in.
If you take this approach it’ll help keep you safe and make the workouts more enjoyable for a long time to come.
Cardio Workouts and Intensity
It’s important that when you’re performing these workouts you’re actually challenging yourself.
That doesn’t mean you need to push until you feel pain or until your body wants to give in, far from it, and if that ever happens it means you’re doing too much and could be at risk of injury, but it does mean you’re not simply going through the motions.
For maximum benefits and to truly reap the rewards of your workout, you need to ensure you’re working at a moderate to vigorous level in at least 3 of your 5 sessions a week.
If you hop off the spin bike after 30 minutes and you don’t feel somewhat tired or out of breath then it means you didn’t work hard enough.
A good way to gauge this is to use the ‘talk test’. If you can have a full conversation with someone during your session, you’re not working hard enough and could be doing more. It doesn’t mean go full throttle, but it does mean challenging yourself to work harder.
Cardio-based workouts are about so much more than simply losing weight or keeping fit. Sure they help to do those things but as you have read in this article, they can also help with mental health, sleep quality, long-term physical health, and even with things like improving energy and mood.
The key now is to find something that you love. Whether that’s running inside on a treadmill instead of outdoors, or buying a rowing machine to workout at home. It doesn’t matter what type of cardio workout you perform, just make sure it’s something you enjoy and that you can see yourself doing it for some time to come.