So what is cardiovascular training, and what are the benefits of cardiovascular fitness? Cardiovascular training refers to working out and strengthening the large muscle groups, the heart, your lungs and whole vascular system. Cardio translates to “heart” and vascular means “vessel”. Cardio training refers to any activity which increases and sustains the heart rate and breathing for an extended amount of time. Working out your heart and cardio system has many health benefits in addition to improvements in heart efficiency and function.
Cardio activities burn body fat and help to condition the heart and lungs which facilitate the movement and efficiency of blood and oxygen throughout the body. The American Heart Association warns against physical inactivity and recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week for cardiovascular health and prevention of obesity, heart disease and other illnesses. In this post, we will consider the benefits as well as the drawbacks of cardio training.
Benefits of cardiovascular fitness
The health benefits of cardiovascular fitness are well known. During exercise your heart works harder and pumps blood all over your body at a much faster rate which makes the heart more efficient at pumping blood. Over time, you gain strength and physical activity becomes easier.
Cardio training exercise is certainly a great way to improve heart efficiency and strength which can lead to huge improvements in your health and fitness, whether you are completely out of shape, want to lose weight, improve your health, or want to increase your strength, efficiency and endurance. Here are a few of the main benefits of cardio training:
1. Enhanced Cardiovascular Fitness: Cardio exercise strengthens and improves your heart, lungs and vascular system. This means that the body’s use of oxygen is more efficient, the heart, lungs and vessels become stronger and ultimately you feel better, and you have more energy and endurance.
The heart is a muscle, and the more it gets exercised, the stronger and more efficient it becomes. Cardio fitness training gets your heart pumping faster more frequently, and it is a sure way to get in shape and remain healthy.
2. Improved Stamina: It is well known that cardio and strength training improves the condition of your cardiovascular system and raises your fitness and endurance levels. Increased strength, stamina and endurance means you can sustain exercise longer without fatigue. The longer you can sustain exercise, the more efficient and stronger your heart and cardiovascular system become.
3. Flexibility: Cardio training exercise, especially when combined with stretching and toning exercises, strengths, tones and expands your muscles to give you more flexibility. The more you exercise and stretch your muscles, the more flexible you get, which in turn allows you to do more activities with ease and avoid torn muscles and ligaments.
4. Better Mood and Reduced Stress: Increasing the efficiency of your cardio vascular system does not just bring about physical health benefits. It also plays a vital role in your mental health by boosting your serotonin and endorphin levels, hence improving your mood, reducing fatigue, depression, stress and anxiety levels. There is nothing like a good cardio fitness session for getting out of a bad mood or lowering stress, it’s better than any medicine.
5. Improved Sleep: Restful sleep is very beneficial and it gives our bodies time to repair and recharge, and our minds to process things. Cardio training helps us sleep better.
There have been scientific studies that have confirmed the positive impact of exercise on the quality of sleep. Activity that raises the heart rate helps us to get better quality restful sleep.
6. Improved Bone Density: Some cardiovascular workouts like aerobic classes, running, jogging, stair running, jump training and walking have a high impact weight bearing effect which helps to build and strengthen bones, and prevent osteoporosis.
7. Lower Risk Of Disease: Regular exercise helps avoid chronic disease by improving immunity, circulation, hormone balance, organ efficiency and regulating blood glucose.
The benefits of cardio fitness include lowering the risk of cancer, diabetes, stroke, heart attack and high blood pressure.
8. Enhanced Immune System: Strong immunity is essential in order for the body to fight off bacteria, viruses and disease. Cardio training actually boosts the whole immune system by not only stimulating your body to produce white blood cells, but also facilitating and speeding up their circulation around your blood stream.
9. Weight Loss: Aerobic exercise that gets your heart pumping and sweat dripping is the best fat burner. Some intense cardio workouts can burn a lot of calories. But it’s not just high intensity exercise that are beneficial, even moderate walking where you feel a little breathless will help burn calories and contribute to weight loss. Without doubt, combining a healthy eating plan with regular cardio exercise will help you lose weight fast, and keep it off.
10. Efficient Metabolism: Regular cardio exercise speeds up your metabolism to become more efficient at burning excess fat. In general, the higher the intensity of the session, the higher the metabolic rate.
A higher metabolic rate means more efficiency in burning calories, and easier weight loss and maintenance. In fact your body continues to burn calories for hours after exercise, even in your sleep. When your metabolism becomes faster and more efficient at burning calories, your body stores less fat, which is good news for your waist line and your health.
11. Reduction of Toxins: High intensity cardio exercise makes you sweat, if you sustain the intensity for a prolonged period. Your body releases toxins in the sweat which would otherwise just build up in the tissues. Drinking water during and after exercise is essential for hydration and helping to clear out toxins.
The Dangers Of Cardio Training
Despite the numerous benefits of cardio fitness, there are also a few disadvantages when you overdo it. Like most things in life, moderation is key, too much of a good thing can work against you. Here are a few dangers to avoid with cardio training:
1. The Risk of Injury: It is important to prepare for exercise and learn to do it correctly. A warm up and a few stretches is often all it takes to prepare your muscles for activity and avoid injury. High impact cardio exercises can put pressure on bones, joints and muscles risking injury. You should also know your limit, when your body is struggling to continue, take a break and work up your endurance in incremental stages.
Set realistic goals and improve gradually. Fitness trackers and heart rate monitors are an enormous help in helping you track your activities and heart rate, so you know where you are and what you need to do to improve.
2. Calorie Overload: Excessive cardio training burns a lot of calories which consequently leaves your body requiring more calories. Some people believe they can eat what they want and as much as they want because they exercise a lot. But in reality, it is easy to consume a lot more than you need, which results in pressure on your digestive system, blood glucose issues, excess calories, weight issues and other health problems.
3. Muscle Breakdown: While excess cardio exercise can result in over consumption of calories, it can also lead to under consumption. Coupled together, excessive exercise and insufficient calories can lead to muscle breakdown, inadequate nutrition and reduced muscle mass. It is important to take account of the calories burned, and consume enough to make sure you are getting adequate daily requirements of calories and nutrients.
4. Sleep Issues: Exercise in moderation has a positive effect on sleep. It reduces stress, balances your serotonin levels, and helps you sleep well. However, too much cardio exercise can cause difficulty in falling asleep or waking up at night. Adequate sleep is essential for your health. These days, some fitness trackers monitor your sleep too so you can get a good picture of your sleeping patterns.
Before starting cardio fitness training, we advise you to consult your doctor first before embarking on any exercise regime. Once you have the all clear from your doctor, start slowly with low impact moderate activity like brisk walking, and work up the intensity over time. Stop if you experience negative symptoms like chest or arm discomfort, shortness of breath, dizziness, or back pain.
You do not need to punish yourself and experience a lot of discomfort to reap the benefits of cardiovascular exercise. Short bouts of 10 minutes throughout the day count towards your daily exercise requirements, and are easier on your body if you have not exercised for a while.
The benefits of cardiovascular fitness are well documented. Cardio training is vital for strength, endurance, efficiency and raising metabolism. It is ideal for anyone wanting to lose weight, increase stamina and become overall stronger and healthier.
There are hundreds of activities from moderate to high intensity, and if you are new to cardio exercise, there is bound to be one for you. Moderation, goal setting and monitoring are essential components in order to meet your fitness goals and potential, as well as avoiding injury and negative side effects.
Just choose a sport or activity that you enjoy and which incorporates cardiovascular training, and give your health and fitness a significant boost. Whether you are doing cardio for weight loss or strength and endurance, you really can’t go wrong, you will only benefit. But remember not to overdo it.
Useful links for how the heart works, general heart health, and exercise: