Physical activity is a key component of a healthy lifestyle, and an effective fitness regimen is one that combines strength training with cardiovascular exercise.
Recommendations from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services urge adults to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week. Aerobic activity includes cardiovascular exercises like hiking, running, dancing, cycling, or other activities that increase the heart rate and improve cardiorespiratory fitness.
Though cardiovascular exercise is often discussed in terms of its heart healthy benefits, the Cleveland Clinic reports that aerobic activities benefit various parts of the body, including the heart but also the brain, the joints, skin, and muscles.
Cardio and your heart
Routine cardiovascular exercise leads to a decrease in resting blood pressure and heart rate. That's beneficial for the heart because it ensures the heart does not have to work unnecessarily hard. Cardiovascular exercise also improves good cholesterol levels and lowers blood fats, each of which also helps to improve heart health.
Cardio and your brain
The Alzheimer's Society reports that studies have shown that exercise that increases heart rate in middle-aged or older adults has led to improvements in thinking and memory and lower rates of dementia. The Cleveland Clinic notes that cardio also decreases stroke risk by increasing blood flow to the brain.
Cardio and your joints
Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become brittle and fragile from a loss of tissue. That tissue loss can be a side effect of aging, but even though the National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that half of all women over 50 will develop osteoporosis, older adults are not helpless against the condition. The Cleveland Clinic notes that cardiovascular exercise can help fight osteoporosis and reduce risk for hip fractures. It's also important to note that men are not immune to osteoporosis, which has long been considered a more significant concern for women than men. Though women's risk for osteoporosis is greater than men's, UC San Diego Health reports that between 20 and 25 percent of all hip fractures occur in men.
Cardio and your skin
Physical activity increases circulation, which the Cleveland Clinic reports leads to clearer, healthier skin. Cardio promotes better blood flow to the skin cells on the face, which can reduce signs of aging and improve complexion.
Cardio and your muscles
Cardio increases oxygen supply to the entire body, and the Cleveland Clinic notes that allows muscles throughout the body to work harder and more efficiently. In addition, routine cardiovascular exercise allows muscles to adapt to an increased workload, which can improve daily life by making routine physical activities easier.
Cardiovascular exercise is a key component of an effective fitness regimen. By committing to cardio, adults can benefit various parts of their bodies.