Cardio doesn’t mean running. This is a concept that we should all remind ourselves of sometimes. Whenever many of us hear the word cardio, we immediately conjure up the image of having to don the sneakers and hit the pavement, treadmill or cross trainer, and this can demotivate us from doing it.
But really we should be looking past the exercises to what cardio actually means, which is cardiovascular exercise. Exercise that works the heart and all the blood vessels in the body. It is estimated in a human adult if you were to lay out all the arteries, capillaries and veins then it would stretch out to 60,000 miles. Amazing when you think that the Earth’s circumference is 25,000 miles, so one adult’s blood vessels can surround the Earth 2.5 times!
Doing exercise that increases your heart rate improves the internal plumbing of these blood vessels, flushing out and cleaning arterial walls, removing plaque and other toxins, whilst enriching muscles and organs with oxygen & other nutrients carried within the blood.
Cardio will not only help strengthen the heart but will help enlarge its capacity and pumping ability. Consistent cardio will lower the resting heart rate meaning that the heart now has to beat less to pump the same amount of blood around the body reducing the amount of work it has to do.
Over time the storage capacity of energy from fats and carbohydrates is increased in the body, as mitochondrial density goes up (think of these as the energy power plants that aid in ramping up your metabolism) – meaning you burn more energy as nutrients are utilized with greater efficiency. This helps keep insulin resistance at bay and manages blood glucose levels - not just a benefit for people with diabetes, but for weight loss too.
A better aerobic system has shown that it helps fight chronic inflammation, and from a sports performance point of view increasing your aerobic system means quicker recovery times. Increased: bone density, joint health, hormonal responses, and brain activity are other benefits that should increase your motivation to see past the exercises we associate with cardio, and should influence your decision to do more of it!