The 5 BEST Benefits of Cardio

The 5 Best Benefits for Incorporating Cardio into Your Workout graphic
The 5 Best Benefits for Incorporating Cardio into Your Workout graphic

People have varying degrees of a love/hate relationship with cardio. Let's all be in agreement that cardio IS the best way to strengthen your circulatory system, and heck, it releases endorphins, so yeah, be happy! But where we have that hate relationship is where we just get soooo tired and winded. News flash, cardio is what we NEED to strengthen ourselves so we won't always be so tired and winded. But first, let's do a quick rundown on what "cardio" actually is.

Cardiovascular fitness is what we say when we are strengthening our entire circulatory system. It consists of aerobic exercise. That is, exercise that makes your lungs take in more oxygen, and you exert more energy. Think #workworkworkworkworkwork.

And for science's sake, let's give just a little rundown how we target that magic number where we are at top exercise effort. We all have a maximum heart rate. That heart rate has a formula, and it's SUPER simple.

220 - age = Maximum Heart Rate

This is the highest amount of beats per minute that you want to be working at. NOW, to get your TARGET heart rate (the rate at which you're in your most efficient exercise zone), there's another formula.

Max Heart Rate x Target % = Target Heart Rate

Your target percentage is what's generally required to measure your effort. The American Heart Association says that you should be exercising between 50%-85% of your maximum heart rate. I say, they're pretty darn smart, :). Now, as I said, these numbers are general, and you should always consult your doctor before participating in exercise programs, but this is a good starting point.

And now, on to the benefits! 

So here are the goods. Here are my top benefits to incorporating cardio workouts into your program. In my next post, I'll give you some of my favorite non-traditional ways to get in a good cardio workout.

  1. Promotes healthy brain function
  2. Promotes more restful sleep
  3. Helps alleviate depression
  4. Increases bone density
  5. Promotes a stronger heart

Promotes healthy brain function

When you incorporate a great cardio workout, you create a higher brain volume. You literally are stimulating and growing your brain! So all of those reality TV shows that kills a few of your brain cells slowly? Go for a good jog and you may be able to gain those cells back!

Promotes More Restful Sleep

So it's the evening, and you've had a killer cardio workout, and you're dead dog tired. You shower, eat, and get ready for bed. Did you know that you will get a more restful sleep because you've stimulated your brain, heart, and body? Often times, we go to sleep and wake up more tired than we were when we laid down. This is because our bodies have been in a state of restLESS sleep. We toss and turn and unconsciously are active while we sleep. Cardio workouts release endorphins and relax us. We are able to rest while we sleep, waking up refreshed and ready to take on the world.

Helps Alleviate Depression

This one is a huge one. Not enough of us (especially in the African-American community) own up to, or get treated for depression. It IS a disease. It needs to be addressed. In addition to getting professional help, if we incorporate a healthy cardio workout, we are able to decrease symptoms of depression. If you're one who would like to avoid anti-depressants altogether, try using regular cardio sessions as your medication, and within 3-4 months, you'll start to feel the cloud lifting. You can do this!

Increases Bone Density

Have you heard the term "big boned"? This is not something that is very accurate. What people should really be examining is bone density. Incorporating a cardio regimen can strengthen your bones and keep them from becoming brittle. You ever wonder why some elderly are more prone to breaking/cracking a hip or other muscle? It's because they didn't incorporate a regular fitness regimen into their lives to keep their bones dense and strong. Why do you think this woman, Ida Keeling, is as fit as she is, AT 100?? She's still sprinting! #thatgoodcardiotho

Promotes a Stronger Heart

Here's the bread and butter. When you incorporate a healthy cardio regimen into your workout program, you're automatically doing your heart a favor. Adding at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity to your day significantly decreases your chances for heart related illnesses, including, heart disease, coronary artery disease, and atherosclerosis, which can lead to heart attack and stroke.

Share with me some of your favorite ways to get your cardio in! It can be traditional or non-traditional!