You know your cardio workout is good for your heart, it’s in the name, after all. But did you know that regularly getting your heart rate up has surprising benefits for the rest of you, too? In fact, your entire body benefits from regular cardio activity.
So along with reducing your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart attack, your cardio workout is also helping you from head to toe.
Cardio exercise increases circulation, including the blood flow to the part of brain that controls your ability to interpret, organize, and act on information (the prefrontal cortex). It also helps maintain neuroplasticity, your brain’s ability to change as you learn and try new things.
Regular cardio exercise can reduce your risk of developing types of dementia. That’s probably because it reduces your risk of developing health issues that are directly linked to dementia, like depression, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
A regular cardio workout can keep the blues away. In fact, it is often recommended as a component in the treatment for depression and anxiety, and to lower stress levels. Cardio activity positively impacts the hippocampus, which manages emotion, and may help slow the breakdown of brain cells. It also prompts the release of the stress-reducing chemicals oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
A natural sleep aid, regular cardio exercise helps regulate your sleep cycle, helps you fall asleep faster, and promotes REM sleep. And, the previously mentioned benefits to mood contribute to a better night’s sleep as well.
Cardio workouts help boost your immune system by improving the circulation of germ-busting substances in your blood.
Cardio exercise burns fat and calories for healthy weight loss. Maintaining a healthy weight is important for your overall health.
A regular cardio workout helps lower blood glucose levels and improves the body’s insulin resistance in diabetics. It also lowers “bad” cholesterol and raises “good” cholesterol, resulting in stronger, healthier arteries.
A good cardio workout gets your lungs pumping. Regularly exercising your lungs helps improve breathing, expand lung capacity, and reduces fatigue and shortness of breath. It makes everyday activities feel easier.
The movement of a cardio workout helps decrease the pain and inflammation caused by osteoarthritis. In addition, the resistance created by your body weight helps ward off osteoporosis. The weight control benefit of cardio workouts also helps with joint pain, as losing extra weight relieves pressure on your joints.
The standard recommendation is at least 150 minutes per week, which divides nicely into 30 minutes, 5 days per week. But with cardio activity, you reap more benefits from slightly longer workouts. If you’re new to cardio, start slowly and work your way up to 45-60 minutes per day for best results. Within a few months you’ll see and feel the difference, from head to toe.