The internet is the unwitting vehicle for a lot of misconceptions about cardiovascular exercise. A pernicious one is this frequent retort of many iron worshippers: “Cardio kills gains, man!” This myth has been demystified several times, but it still keeps haunting body-building forums and gym locker rooms. While interesting, this is a topic for another time and another post. The one we are passionately up in arms about is the idea that you need cardio only when you wish to lose weight. This is not just untrue, but also undermines a lot of the work researchers and doctors have put in studying and understanding the benefits of cardio. Our goal is not only clear cardio’s name but also prove to you that it can be one of the most effective weapons in your quiver in the fight for a healthy body and a happy mind. Here are four reasons why cardio is worth more than just the calories you expend while doing it.
Cardio helps the body heal
Inflammation is the natural part of body’s healing process. But not all inflammation is beneficial. The inflammation accompanying rheumatoid arthritis, for instance, is just pointlessly painful. A recent research in the ‘Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research’ found that even low to moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise was much better for inflammation than resistance training. The best results could probably be achieved through a combination of resistance training and aerobics, but this study validates much of what us cardio-bunnies have been saying for ages: cardio helps alleviate pain.
Cardio is good for the heart
This should be a no-brainer. It is in the name after all. Doctors have been telling us this for ages. But the shrouds of misinformation has muffled these well-meaning voices too. The heart is one of the hardest working organs of our body. Exercising it the right way improves its endurance by strengthening it and also reducing the bad cholesterol that impedes its work. This effect might not feel as immediate and palpable as seeing your “guns” pop out, but it is equally important.
Cardio helps with depression and anxiety
Anecdotally, cardio lifts your mood. The runner’s high is not a wishful myth. But it has proven to have a deeper positive effect in people suffering from depression and General Anxiety Disorder, when used in conjunction with the relevant medication. While the exact pathways are unclear, researchers say this improvement could be the result of increase in the levels of endorphins or neurotransmitters.
Cardio improves bone health
Research has shown that rigorous and regular weight-bearing exercises like walking, running, and resistance training have a marked effect on bone tissue, strengthening and reinforcing it. Bone health is crucial for higher quality of life. Cardio also helps maintain higher than average bone-mass through out your life, preventing early onset of osteoporosis and other bone-related diseases.
While we hope we have proved our case to you, the results of any physical activity are maximised by knowing and adhering to best-practices. We will expand on this soon, but remember that your cardio routine should not be a static thing. You should plan to diversify your routine by incorporating different varieties and intensities of the exercise. But be assured that any well-planned routine will keep you strong, lithe, and healthy.
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