Cardiovascular fitness. While many of us are familiar with this term, and may even do cardio workouts on a regular basis, we may not understand why this is such an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Today, we’re taking a look at what we mean by “cardio” and discussing the health benefits associated with this type of exercise.
Cardiovascular exercise (sometimes called cardiorespiratory exercise or aerobic exercise) is any exercise that raises your heart rate, engages large muscle groups and is continuous or repetitive. Jogging, swimming, biking and using the elliptical are common cardio workouts. Group fitness classes like kickboxing, step or dance are also examples of cardio.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that beginners start slowly with lower intensity workouts like walking or bike riding before working up to higher intensity activities. The AHA also recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity (2 hours and 30 minutes) each week for overall health. The Center for Disease Control makes the same recommendation, and further suggests that for even greater health, adults increase their weekly cardio to 5 hours each week.
Greater health, indeed. An article by Jonathan Myers, PhD in an American Heart Association publication concludes that more active or fit individuals are prone to develop less coronary heart disease (CHD) than their inactive counterparts. Other health benefits of cardiovascular fitness include lower blood pressure, a reduction in bad cholesterol and an increase in good cholesterol and possible prevention from diseases such as hypertension, osteoporosis and colon cancer.
Cardio may even make you smarter. A 2009 study out of Sweden found strong ties between cardio and intelligence. The study showed that cardiovascular fitness at age 18 predicted educational achievements later in life. Other studies have suggested that regular exercise may prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
With amazing preventive qualities that stretch from protecting your heart to your mind, it’s no wonder that cardiovascular fitness is the cornerstone to a healthy lifestyle. Kick off 2012 right by getting that heart rate up and working your way to a fit future.