Running, cycling, rowing, kickboxing, hiking...cardio comes in many forms (jazzercise, anyone?)
And, while many of us loathe cardio, there’s a plethora of benefits to be obtained from putting in the work beyond weight loss.
Here are the top 9 ways cardio improves your health and overall quality of life!
Naturally Boosts Energy
It’s rather common these days to run on “synthetic” energy -- energy drinks, energy shots, gourmet coffees, etc. While there’s nothing wrong with taking a serving of pre workout before an intense resistance training or cardio session, if you are finding that you can’t even perform basic functions (like rolling out of bed) without first having your morning “hit” of caffeine, then it might be time to reassess things, beginning with your sleep hygiene.
In addition to sleep, cardio can naturally boost your energy, which is one of the main reasons why many people choose to start their day off with it in the early hours of the morning. When we engage in any sort of physical activity our body releases endorphins and other feel-good chemicals, like dopamine, which boost our energy, alertness, brain function, and motivation.
Helps You Look & Feel Younger
Cardio can increase mitochondrial density in your cells. In case you forgot your 7th grade intro to biology, mitochondria are the “mini nuclear reactors” in our cells that provide the energy (ATP) we need to do work.
Increasing the amount of mitochondria can help increase the body’s natural ability to produce energy as well as combat the normal biological process of aging. In other words, adding some cardio to your weekly training regimen may not only help you to have more energy, but look and feel younger, too!
Reduces Chronic Pain
Chronic pain, such as lower back pain, is something millions of individuals deal with on a daily (if not, hourly) basis.
This can impact mood, performance, and overall quality of life, both mentally and physically.
Low-impact forms of cardio, such as swimming, walking, or cycling, may help improve muscle function, strength, and endurance, which can help reduce chronic back pain and thus enhance overall quality of life.
Supports Cardiovascular Health
Cardiovascular exercise (i.e. “cardio) also, unsurprisingly helps strengthen your heart and lungs due to the fact that cardio exercise increases heart rate and circulation.
Helps the Immune System
Let’s face it, getting sick isn’t fun, even if it’s something as minor as a headache or runny nose. Being sick can make your head feel foggy, making it harder to think and get work done, and it can prevent you from attending an important event.
Cardio can help your immune system because it modifies your antibodies and white blood cells, thereby reducing the risk of developing systemic inflammatory processes and stimulating cellular immunity.
Even something as simple as a couple of 10-minutes walks sprinkled throughout the day or a few 20-minute cardio sessions three to five days a week is all that it takes to derive the incredible health benefits of cardio.
And don’t forget that cardio doesn’t just have to be done on a treadmill (or at the gym for that matter). You can do cardio outside by going for a run or hike, doing bodyweight circuits, or doing intervals of kettlebells swings.
Elevates Mood & Well-Being
Our mood can fluctuate from one day to the next as well as within the same day. And, when we’re particularly stressed, our mental health and well-being suffers.
Cardio (as well as resistance-training) can help boost your mood and relieve stress. In case you weren’t aware, physical activity of any kind is a natural stress reliever and releases a flood of feel-good chemicals in the body, including serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.
Supports Joint Health
Millions of individuals struggle with creaky, achy joints and/or osteoarthritis. Knee osteoarthritis is the most common form of osteoarthritis among adults.
Typically, individuals with arthritis rely on a battery of anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) to deal with the pain, but studies have found that exercise can provide an immediate reduction in pain. Researchers note that this may be due to a combination of factors including increased circulation to the joints and a reduction in inflammation.
In addition to eating a well-balanced diet, being active, using good form, and giving your body adequate rest, it may also be helpful to invest in a quality joint support formula, such as 1UP Joint Health Plus, especially for those of us who put our bodies through lots of demanding physical activity each week.
Reduces Risk of Disease
We’ve already touched on how cardio can support the body’s immune system, which can help combat infection from various pathogens, but those aren’t the only types of diseases facing humankind these days. There’s also lifestyle-induced conditions like obesity, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome.
Cardio improves glucose tolerance (how your body handles carbohydrates), lowers blood pressure, boosts insulin sensitivity, and supports weight loss -- all of which promote cardiometabolic health and reduce the risk of chronic lifestyle disease.
We’ve all felt the need (and been told countless times) to get more sleep. Unfortunately, many of us don’t get enough quality sleep each night, for any number of reasons.
Not getting enough sleep results in low energy which can make doing anything that much more taxing and exhausting, both mentally and physically.
Adding cardio to your weekly training program can help you achieve better quality sleep for the simple reason that you’ll be expending more energy during the day, which will inevitably help tire you out, making it easier to fall asleep at night!
And, if you need extra help falling asleep at night, possibly due to the fact that you’ve had a particularly stressful day at the office, you can also utilize some relaxation techniques before bed as well as use a nighttime relaxation and recovery aid, such as Beauty Dream PM or Recharge PM.
Cardio isn’t just for burning calories and improving weight loss, it also offers many benefits to your health & wellness.
And, for those looking for a convenient way to get their cardio in, without having to necessarily go to the gym or buy an expensive piece of equipment, make sure to log into the 1UP Fitness App where we provide tons of great workouts and training programs, including at-home options.
- Susko AM, Fitzgerald GK. The pain-relieving qualities of exercise in knee osteoarthritis. Open Access Rheumatol. 2013;5:81-91. Published 2013 Oct 15. doi:10.2147/OARRR.S53974