Everybody interprets the word “Cardio” differently; some hate it, some love it, some just do it, some don’t. Cardio in the basic sense is making the heart and lungs work harder for a period of time. The “period of time” is what creates a challenge for most people. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity, 75 minutes of vigorous activity, or a mixture of the two, per week. Let’s try to change this paradigm of Cardio being a challenge, and enjoy it!
Cardio results in a cascade of healthy effects for the body. It can increase energy levels, give us time to practice self care, and decrease stress levels. All of which decrease cortisol, a chemical in the body that leads to increased inflammation and pain. It can increase quality of sleep and access to vitamin D, both of which help the body repair itself and make us feel better. All while helping maintain healthy weight and decreasing the risk of heart disease. Cardio helps our body better utilize sugar in the blood and increases sensitivity to insulin, which helps prevent/treat non-insulin dependent diabetes.
All of these benefits are only available if we do Cardio. This can best be accomplished by finding something enjoyable and engaging; something we can look forward to. One way to do this may be to vary the types of Cardio you perform. Ideally, finding a mixture of low intensity, high intensity, and strength-based Cardio is best. Low intensity includes walking, jogging, rowing, or other repetitive activity that you can continue for a prolonged period of time. High intensity Cardio can be any mixture activities that you can only sustain for a short period of time, followed by a period of rest. High intensity should be done no more than 2-3 times per week as the body needs time to recover. When adding strength-based Cardio (ie. Circuit training) you will have the added benefits of increased metabolism and release of growth hormone along with protection of joints and spine from degeneration.
If you are new to exercise, remember to start small and find something you enjoy. Look for opportunities to learn from others who are active. Consider joining a gym, working out in a class, or meeting with a medical fitness specialist to find the activities that are right for you. Our bodies are meant to move, so get out there and start/keep moving!
Written by: Terrence Keller