Last Updated on June 21, 2023 by Michael Brockbank
Did you know that cardio activity can lead to more than just losing weight? While weight loss is a driving factor for many, there are actually quite a few benefits to adding more cardio to your daily routine. And most have nothing to do with your appearance.
Despite people who want to push the fatphobic narrative, cardio activities will vastly improve your quality of life in profound ways. And I’m talking about more than just looking “good” on Instagram.
In reality, it’s a way to prolong your life, in general.
Why Should You Get More Cardio in the Day?
Too many people are averse to getting themselves up and moving. That’s why about 42.4% of adults in the US are considered obese.
Now, there are a lot of contributing factors to a lack of physical movement. Nonetheless, there are a lot of advantages to cardio activity that can help decrease that percentage. It all comes down to someone’s ambition to live a better life.
So, what kind of benefits can you get from cardio activity?
Strengthens the Cardiovascular System
First of all, increased physical movement works to improve your cardiovascular system. The muscles of the heart are strengthened and it has an easier time pumping blood throughout your body.
This also means that blood vessels are widened, including the capillaries. So, your body also has the added benefit of carrying away waste products within your bloodstream.
This contributes to reducing your risks of coronary heart disease, which kills one person in the United States every 33 seconds. This is in addition to the 805,000 people over the age of 20 who have heart attacks every year.
So, if no other benefit really piques your fancy below, consider the risks of premature death.
Resistance to Injury and Illness
Increasing your routine cardio activity boosts your immune system, which makes you more resistant to various types of illness. In fact, aerobic exercise has been linked to the circulation of defensive cells within the body.
While you might not have the healing factor of Wolverine or Deadpool, you will find yourself less likely to get sick when your kids bring something home from school or if someone coughs in your face on the elevator at work.
In fact, according to studies during the COVID pandemic of 2020, around 78% of people who needed a ventilator or died from COVID-19 were overweight or obese. Although a heightened immune system greatly reduced the impact of the pandemic, the fact of improved overall health played a role to protect many.
As for preventing injury, a continued effort through exercise Improves muscle development, stamina, flexibility, and even bone density, depending on the workouts you perform. All of this together helps stabilize balance, reduce the onset of fatigue, repair damage to the body quicker, and so much more.
In the end, you’ll be less likely to get injured.
Decreases Blood Pressure
Did you know that resistant hypertension is a thing? This is when you have high blood pressure despite being on medications that are supposed to lower it. But luckily, regular aerobic exercise can help lower the blood pressure of those affected.
In one study, it was found that cardiovascular activity improved the systolic and diastolic numbers of those affected by 7.1 points and 5.1 points, respectively.
Overall, though, one of the greatest benefits of cardio activity is lowering blood pressure and making your heart stronger. So, how much exercise does it take to lower blood pressure? According to some experts, aiming for 30 to 60 minutes per week is efficient to make noticeable reductions.
Improves Sleep Patterns
If you’re someone who deals with insomnia or disrupted sleeping patterns such as myself, increasing cardio activity can help. In fact, aerobic exercise can also decrease issues with various sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea.
This kind of hits pretty close to home, considering that it’s common for me to stop breathing altogether if I sleep on my back. The more weight I lose, the less apnea has an effect on me.
Out of the many benefits of cardio, this is perhaps one of the more important for me. After all, the last thing I want to do is suffocate in my sleep. And there have been times when I’ve awoken gasping for air. It’s kind of scary when you think about it.
Improves Mental Health
Probably one of the greatest benefits of cardio is how it improves mental health. I’ve talked about this for quite some time, and there are many studies that dive into how physical activity can help with a wide scope of illnesses.
Depression, anxiety, anger, and prolonged happiness in general…these are all often affected by the changes your brain makes while under moderate to intense physical activity. As I’ve pointed out before, it’s why a lot of therapists will prescribe exercise over medication in some instances.
Of course, it all comes down to prolonged exposure. A quick run around the block may not instantly cure you of depression. But building a routine of moderate to intense workouts can ultimately change your brain chemistry for the better for longer periods of time.
Improves Thinking Skills
Keeping in the same vein as mental health, cardio activities can also improve memory and the processing power of the brain. Again, there have been studies upon studies that demonstrate how regular exercise can boost how your brain retains and processes information.
Case in point, I know that I am a lot more efficient at my job if I start my day with at least a good 20 to 25-minute, fast-paced walk. That’s not including the days when I throw myself in front of the Kinect or go to the gym. In general, I not only feel better about the day, but I’m more focused and effective on days I exercise.
Let’s not forget a good diet. After all, you are what you eat. A nutritional morning with an active lifestyle can make all the difference in how you think and behave throughout the day. This is because your brain needs certain nutrients in order to function properly.
Improves Endurance for Everyday Tasks
If you want to be more active outdoors or simply need more energy to clean around the house, cardio routines are loaded with benefits to do so. It’s all about improving cardiovascular endurance which can lead to a sustainable level of stamina.
This one really bothered me back when I weighed 280 pounds. I had a hard time walking up a slight incline while we were camping, which kind of put a damper on the weekend’s activities for me. Personally, I’d rather enjoy those moments in life instead of just plopping in a chair and watching them march past.
Nowadays, I can spend more time mowing the lawn and caring for my garden. I can decorate my house for Halloween and Christmas without taking several hour-long breaks. And I can enjoy a walk around the lake without wheezing and gasping for air.
Improving your endurance can go a long way to really enjoying a lot of things that life has to offer.
Regulates Blood Sugar Levels
Routine exercise lowers blood glucose levels while making your body more sensitive to insulin. This means cardio workouts have great benefits for those who have diabetes. In fact, it was found that women who spend a minimum of four hours per week with moderate exercise lowered their risks of developing heart disease by 40%.
The best part is that those with diabetes can reap the rewards without doing much more than a good walk around the neighborhood once per day. Though, increasing the intensity of the cardio activity can lead to more benefits overall.
What about the opposite side of the spectrum? Some people are affected by hypoglycemia, which is having a blood sugar level much lower than the standard range. In that case, you’ll want to have something you can snack on to raise your blood glucose levels while working out.
I usually have fig bars, protein bars, or juice on hand.
Pain Reduction in Joints
Exercise helps in joint health and can contribute to ease issues caused by arthritis. You’ll improve your range of motion, build stronger muscles, boost endurance, and improve overall balance. All of these can work to reduce the pain caused by various joint ailments.
If you have a more severe case of arthritis or joint pain, there are quite a few exercises you can do that are low impact that can help relieve some of the pain. A great example is swimming. It’s an exercise that will work out a variety of muscle groups in the body with little to no impact on your joints.
I know that regularly walking vastly improves how my knees feel after sitting in a chair for several hours at a time. Not to mention how physical activity alleviates stiff joints and muscles, especially if I push myself a bit harder than normal at the gym.
Increasing Your Libido
For quite a few people, one of the greatest benefits of cardio exercise evolves around a love life. Yep, being more physically active will increase your libido. That’s because of several factors such as improved blood flow to certain organs, decrease in insulin levels which can affect certain hormones, a reduction in stress (which also decreases sex drive), and other factors.
As little as two and a half hours of exercise per week can increase the sex drive in men by as much as 15%. For women, 20 minutes of exercise can boost arousal by 169%. Also, keep in mind that this doesn’t say anything about the physical activeness that comes with being more appealing when looking for a mate. I know we shouldn’t bank on looks, but humans are a visual species. We are attracted to certain aspects of a prospective lover, and to deny that is simply denying yourself.
In any case, if you want to improve relations in the bedroom, exercise is perhaps the cheapest and easiest way to go about doing so. There are no pills to pop, no devices to attach, and no videos to put on the phone. Getting into an exercise routine may be all that you need.
Overall Weight Loss
Lastly, and perhaps the most obvious of benefits, getting into a good routine for cardio exercise will help you lose weight. Despite what some so-called “fitness influencers” think, for most people, weight loss is a simple calculation of burning more than you consume. For instance, I’ve lost weight even by eating the Taco Bell Deluxe Cravings box simply because I kept active enough to burn all of the carbs.
In fact, I’ve lost more than 80 pounds without changing much of what I eat. It’s all about how much of that crap I was eating. Proper portion sizes and keeping active are how I still lost 80 pounds despite enjoying ice cream, cookies, and cakes.
Most of my cardio activities involve walking, swimming, riding a bike, playing the Xbox Kinect, or playing the Oculus Quest 2. It’s nothing fancy, but I can burn the calories and carbs of virtually anything I eat. And so can most people, as long as they put in the effort to monitor intake and get more active.
Easy Cardio Activities You Can Do Right Now
The great thing about cardio exercise is that virtually any physical activity can count. Anything that elevates your heart rate to about 50% of maximum and up is considered “cardio” activity.
However, more intense activity will increase energy burn while improving overall health. You’ll want to sustain the activity for more than 20 minutes per session if possible. Your target heart rate is determined by your age, according to Heart.org. So, before grinding yourself into a sticky paste at 200+ bpm, get an idea of what is considered safe for your age.
Some easy cardio activities that are relatively safe include:
- Walking, jogging, or running
- Vigorously cleaning house
- Intense yard work (plus you get vitamin D from sunlight)
- Golfing, bowling, and any other physical sport
- Dancing in the living room with no one around
Do you see a trend? Literally, any activity that can get your heart rate over 100 is considered cardio activity. The more you move, the more intense the “exercise” becomes.
Cardio Has a Lot of Practical Benefits
Cardiovascular, or aerobic, exercises can have a profound positive impact on your body. And with a routine exercise regimen, cardio exercises can deliver incredible quality-of-life benefits as well. It’s not always about getting those likes and comments on social media. You could find yourself geeking out over something as mundane as picking up a 50-pound bag of dog food with one hand without grunting.
Health and fitness are more about improving your life and living longer than trying to get someone to slide into your DMs late at night.