You go to the gym four days each week and ride that elliptical machine or take that spinning class. But why? For the health benefits of exercise? To lose weight? To feel better about yourself, or all of the above? Cardio exercise can help you live longer, look better and feel more confident, so keep that routine going.
Reduced Cardiovascular Disease Risk
One of the biggest benefits of cardio exercise is the reduced disk of cardiovascular disease, which is likely something that is not currently your biggest worry. Although cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in the United States, it usually does not affect young women. However, the cardio exercise you do now greatly reduces your future risk of cardiovascular disease. You lower your risk of heart attacks, stroke, high blood pressure and plaque buildup in your arteries. While these are not necessarily results you can see, it is much easier to pay for a gym membership and workout now than spend tens of thousands of dollars on open-heart surgery later in life.
Weight Loss and Maintenance
One of the most common reasons young women go to the gym is to lose weight. And thankfully cardio exercise is one of the most effective calorie burners there is. A regular cardio exercise routine can result in many pounds lost, a very nice benefit. This is, of course, only true if you are eating a proper diet as well. In the long term, regular cardio exercise helps to maintain your current weight. So if you would rather avoid up-and-down dieting later in life, get your cardio routine established soon.
Improved Mental Health
One of the lesser-known benefits of cardiovascular exercise is its ability to improve your mood. Of course, with weight loss and muscle toning comes increased self-esteem. But cardio exercise can do more than that, and endorphins are to thank. When you exercise, your body releases it's own natural pain killers, called endorphins, to help your body handle the exercise. Long term, continued exposure to endorphins through exercise can improve your mood and self-esteem, and even reduce depression and stress.
Increased Quality of Life
As you age, your body will eventually become less functional. This may be years down the road for you, but the cardio exercise you do now can help to improve your quality of life later. You surely know some elderly people who live in a nursing home and have trouble functioning. And you also probably have seen some elderly people who walk or jog the same route every day, rain or shine, for years. A long-term cardio routine will help keep you out of a bed and on your feet later in life. But you need to start now to see this benefit.
- MayoClinic.com: Exercise: 7 Benefits of Regular Physical Activity
- Ideafit.com: Benefits of Exercise
- Health.gov: 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: Chapter 2
- ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, 7th edition; Mitchell H. Whaley
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images
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