Healthy Lifestyle

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The lesser known benefits of cardiovascular exercise

Active people tend to have varying views on cardiovascular exercise, or cardio. Often done at the end of a workout, cardio rarely evokes a staid response from fitness afficionados asked to share their thoughts on this valuable type of exercise. Fans of cardio will admit they love the feeling they get during and after a rigorous round of this type of exercise, which includes activities like running, cycling and walking. But those men and women who dread their time on the treadmill, elliptical machine or stationary bike are likely to categorize cardio as a boring and uninspiring activity. But regardless of a person's opinion on cardio, there's no denying it offers numerous benefits, many of which even avid athletes might be unaware.

* Cardio boosts brain power. Perhaps the least known benefit of cardio is its positive impact on the brain. During cardiovascular exercise, the brain is being flooded with chemicals that improve decision making, memory and problem solving. Cardio can also help preserve memory and improve its ability to learn. So while the physical benefits of exercise are widely known and noticeable to the naked eye, cardiovascular exercise can be just as effective at improving cognitive function.

* Cardio can improve your appearance. Improving physical appearance is a motivating factor for many physically active men and women, and cardio can go a long way toward improving physical appearance because it increases lean body tissue while reducing fat. Cardiovascular exercise is a healthy way to burn calories, and burning calories is a healthy means to losing weight.

* Cardio can help reduce the severity of preexisting conditions. Arthritis sufferers have long looked to cardiovascular exercise as a healthy means to relieving the pain caused by their condition. Water exercises like swimming make for great cardiovascular exercises, especially for those looking to relieve arthritis pain. That's because an exercise such as swimming keeps joints moving while strengthening muscles surrounding those joints. Studies have shown that cardiovascular exercise also can lower blood pressure.

* Cardio can improve mood. Cardiovascular exercise can benefit men and women suffering from depression or those who are simply having a bad day. That's because the mood-boosting chemical serotonin is released to the brain during cardio, helping to improve mood and alleviate symptoms of depression or fatigue.

* Cardio can make tomorrow's workout easier. Recovery time is important to athletes, many of whom want to ensure their bodies are ready for tomorrow's workout even before they finish today's. Cardiovascular exercise helps to deliver more oxygen-rich blood to muscle tissue, aiding in tissue repair and recovery. The quicker your body can rebound from today's workout, the more effective tomorrow's workout will be. So even if you don't enjoy that pit stop at the treadmill before you head home, it's paying more dividends than you might know.