Cardio exercise can range from walking the dog around your neighborhood for an hour to sprinting up a mountain for 20 minutes and can affect the body in numerous ways. There is no way to use cardio to affect merely one part of your body; spot-reduction is impossible. Instead, cardio has beneficial effects on major systems and organs throughout your entire body. Your fat stores, heart, lungs and metabolism are just a few aspects of your health that may improve with regular cardio exercise.
Initially, cardio draws upon your glycogen stores,rather than fat, to fuel your body during exercise. Glycogen is stored energy. But, this process is still very important to fat loss. Using up glycogen results in your body turning fat into glycogen to replace your energy stores. In addition, cardio affects your entire respiratory system. Regardless of your exercise level, the aerobic nature of cardio exercise can improve the function of your heart and lungs. Blood pressure and cholesterol levels often decrease, which may, in turn, increase your life expectancy. This is because aerobic exercise forces your body to grow tiny blood vessels to deliver oxygen to your entire body, which helps you perform pretty much every bodily function.
Hormones and Metabolism
Firing up your body with cardio exercise starts a lot of beneficial processes that continue long after your workout is over. Pushing yourself to perform difficult cardio exercise for as little as 15 minutes causes your growth hormone and testosterone levels to rise. These hormones help you build stronger muscles. A side bonus of building muscle is increased calorie burn. The result? Cardio affects the hormones in your endocrine system, the development of every muscle in your body and, subsequently, fat loss everywhere.
Cardio doesn't just affect your body during and immediately after your workout; it also triggers reactions that can prevent serious health issues. Regular aerobic exercise has been found to improve the immune system, preventing disease. Endorphins that are released during cardio combat stress and depression. And, most important for women, cardio increases bone density, which helps to prevent osteoporosis. In other words, cardio is affecting your body from your hormones to your bones throughout your life.
A cardio workout plan is easy to fit into your schedule and important for long-term health. If you feel like you do not have time, consider walking on the treadmill in front of a television to add cardio into your nightly TV-watching routine. Bring sneakers to work to squeeze a brisk walk into your lunch break. Park at the back of the lot to add more walking into your daily schedule. Ideally, you should aim for 150 minutes of moderate activity a week, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. If you are just starting out, be careful not to push too hard and overdo it, or you may discourage yourself from continuing with a healthy program.
- American Heart Association: Exercise and Cardiovascular Health
- Muscle Mag Fitness: All About Cardio
- Muscle and Strength: The Cardio Question: What Type Of Cardio Is Best For Fat Loss?
- Mayo Clinic: Fitness: Create a Program That's Right For You
- Mayo Clinic: Barriers to Fitness: Overcoming Common Challenges
Meredith Berg received her B.F.A. in directing from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. Now living in Los Angeles, she works as a film and television writer, comic-book editor and director of plays and films. In addition, she loves tackling paleo recipes, workout routines and DIY projects.