Cardio… more to it than just running

Cardiovascular, or endurance exercise, is vital in maintaining the health of the heart, cardiovascular, respiratory, muscular, skeletal systems, and more.

Cardio produces a plethora of benefits including improved muscle tone, muscular endurance, and strength. It also has protective effects against diseases such as cardiovascular disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and obesity. As such, cardiovascular exercise is a major component in most exercise programs aiming to reduce weight and body fat. Running, swimming and biking are common forms of cardiovascular exercise. However, most bodily movements can be considered cardiovascular exercise. What’s even better, cardio can be done just about anywhere, anytime, with very little to no equipment (#nogymrequired).

Cardiovascular exercise can consist of any sort of movement that increases the heart rate. Benefits of cardiovascular exercise include increased blood flow, delivery of nutrients, and transport of waste out of the body. When the heart regularly experiences increases in heart rate from cardiovascular exercise, it becomes more efficient at pumping blood. Cardio also strengthens most major muscle groups in the body. This is vital for maintaining healthy bone mineral density, muscle mass, core strength, posture, balance, and overall muscle health.

Cardio also plays an important role in proper functioning of the endocrine system. This consists of hormones tasked with maintaining homeostasis, or normal daily bodily conditions. These hormones operate to regulate sleep, growth and development, metabolism, mood, reproductive health, blood glucose levels, and more. Increased blood flow during cardiovascular exercise permits the transmission of certain hormones and stimulates the release of growth hormone. Growth hormone operates to regulate glucose and fat levels, and aid in muscle regeneration and recovery. Older adults naturally experience reduced levels of growth hormone. Consequently, cardiovascular exercise is especially beneficial for this age group.

Achieving Your Cardio Goals

The key to maintaining cardiovascular health is finding any form of movement that is enjoyable and raises the heart rate for a moderate duration of time. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 150 minutes per week of light to moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous intensity exercise. Unfortunately, many fail to meet these guidelines.

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Four Facts about Cardio

The best and most sustainable forms of cardiovascular exercise are those which are enjoyable. Running is an excellent form of cardio that strengthens major muscle groups of the lower body. However, if running is something you find difficult or unenjoyable, fast walking, hiking, dancing, and bodyweight circuit training are also viable options. A circuit of bodyweight exercises such as jumping jacks, squat jumps, burpees, and jump roping is another great way to get the heart rate up. Likewise, many outdoor activities such as cycling, swimming, rowing, and walking stairs can be quite enjoyable.In fact, the best form of cardiovascular exercise consists of a mixture of any kind, as the body quickly adapts to repeated bouts of the same exercises.

Lastly, studies have shown that exercise regimens are more sustainable and enjoyable when they’re done with friends. Exercising with a buddy can boost self-esteem, promote accountability, and create long-lasting healthy habits.

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