August 22nd, 2022
While we often emphasize the importance of strength training and increasing muscle mass, it doesn’t mean cardio isn’t important – in fact, it has many benefits for your overall health.
The Benefits of Cardio
Cardio has many significant benefits. For example, studies demonstrate that aerobic activity (cardio) increases the mitochondria in the body and prevents age-related mitochondrial decline. The mitochondria are essential in every cell within the body, creating energy for each cell to perform its regular functions.
In turn, this means your body can optimize its use of oxygen, leading to increased energy and limiting fatigue that tends to increase as we age. On top of this, cardio increases blood flow to the brain. This drives cognitive function and improves brain health, even reducing your risk of dementia.
Furthermore, when you move your joints during cardio activity, this stimulates lubrication of the joints. This means that more synovium (joint fluid) is produced, which can help prevent wear-and-tear and pain.
And, as you probably already know, cardio is wonderful for your heart and cardiovascular health. This type of activity keeps your arteries in check. As the blood pumps through your veins, it acts as floss for your arteries! This can help get rid of plaque in a gentle and efficient way.
In many ways, cardio also acts as an accelerator for a healthy metabolism. With the right dose, you actually improve metabolic health, paving your way toward graceful aging!
How Much Cardio Should I Do?
Adding cardio into your routine doesn’t mean you need to go for an hour-long run each day or anything extreme. In fact, just 12 minutes of cardio three times a week will make a difference.
It doesn’t have to be running – or even walking (both of which are great) – if it’s not your thing; there are countless low-impact exercises available to everyone, including marching on the spot, using an elliptical, going up and down stairs, or riding a bike. Even playing with your kids or grandkids can count as cardio. The goal is simply to get your heart rate up!
By doing so, you work your endurance muscle fibers, which typically aren’t targeted effectively while performing resistance training exercises. (When you strength train, you predominantly use fast-twitch ‘strength’ muscle fibers. And slow-twitch ‘endurance’ fibers for cardiovascular exercise.)
From an athlete who wants to prevent injury to individuals in their 80s and 90s, cardio can help anyone at any age feel good, especially during movement.