More and more people these days seem to be overlooking cardio in favour of pure strength workouts. This, however, is a bit like hopping everywhere on one leg instead of walking on two. Cardiovascular exercises are an essential component of every workout regime, as they both improve your overall results and provide unique benefits of their own. No matter your personal fitness goals, cardiovascular fitness is important for everybody.
Lots of exercises think that to pack on muscle, you need to avoid cardio like the plague. However, this is not exactly true. While excessive cardio on its own will burn off both fat and muscle, incorporating some high-intensity cardio into your strength workout actually aids in building muscle. Increasing your heart rate enough pushes your body into metabolic overdrive, which makes it that much easier to build and maintain stronger muscles. Cardiovascular exercises also reduce the fat mass added from a high-calorie muscle-building diet, so you get the gains without the by-products.
Since it improves your metabolism, doing cardio for weight loss can be very effective. High intensity cardio lets you burn a lot of calories quickly, making it especially helpful if you have a busy schedule. Longer (but less than an hour), moderate intensity sessions are also important, giving you a greater overall fat burn. It’s best to mix up your workouts with both high and moderate intensity cardio, so you get the benefits of both without letting your body grow too comfortable. Even if you aren’t trying to lose weight, burning off excess fat will make your muscles look more defined, revealing the six-pack abs you always knew were just under the surface.
It’s easy to forget that cardio is all about working the heart. Since your heart is responsible for transporting oxygenated blood to your cells, making your heart work better will allow everything else to work better too. This allows you to work out longer to complete your sessions every time, and dial up the difficulty when it starts to feel a bit too easy.
Improve Heart Health
Of course, most of us aren’t working out just to hit targets or look good; we do it to be healthy. Cardio fitness is important for so much more than losing weight or having a better workout, as it lowers blood pressure and increases the amount of red blood cells in your bloodstream to transport oxygen to your cells. Keeping your heart healthy is good for your whole body, and helps you avoid health complications such as heart disease. So if you can lift double your bodyweight but get winded going up a flight of stairs, it’s definitely time to add cardio to your workout.
Gain Psychological and Hormonal Benefits
We’ve all heard that cardio releases endorphins, but what does that really mean? Endorphins are hormones released throughout longer-duration exercise that reduce stress, block pain and grant a feeling of euphoria, all to help you keep going. In the longer term, any kind of cardiovascular exercise has been shown to improve general mood and reduce symptoms of depression.