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 What are the benefits of cardio exercise?

Cardiovascular exercise offers a wide range of benefits, when it is carried out on a regular basis. It is recommended that every adult does some form of it at least three times a week, for approximately thirty minutes at a time, though fitting this in can be difficult with the busy lives that most women now lead. This is why it is so important to stay active throughout the day, as even short bursts of activity will add up and you will start to see the benefits.

Weight loss.

So many women are trying to lose weight through dieting, but if this is the case for you, then your efforts will be much more effective if you also take part in regular exercise. In order to lose weight, you need to use up more calories than you take in, and this is easiest to address using both diet and exercise in combination. Evert time you move, you are using up calories, so staying on your feet as much as possible will soon show benefits. Even if you have a desk job, you can stand up and move when you are on the phone, for example, which will keep you active. Even just walking slightly faster than your usual pace will use some extra calories and help you to achieve your weight loss goal.

Exercise can reduce your risk of disease.

Many lifestyle diseases, such as heart attack, obesity, stroke and more, can be prevented by undertaking regular exercise. Cardio exercise improves the flow of blood around your body, which reduces the strain on your heart and makes the pumping more efficient. This will have the effect of reducing your blood pressure, and this is a major risk factor for heart disease, including heart attack.

Exercise also greatly reduces the risk of obesity, as active people are less likely to gain excess weight. It can also lead to a reduction in the “bad cholesterol”, or LDLs, which lead to heart disease by clogging the arteries that supply your heart with blood. It will also increase the level of “good cholesterol”, or HDLs, which offer even more protection against lifestyle diseases.

Exercise can reduce stress and boost your mood.

It has long been recognised that aerobic activity can help to reduce stress levels by helping you to work off some of the tension you are feeling. It provides a physical outlet for your emotions, and is a healthy way of dealing with stress – much better than turning to alcohol or cigarettes, which are other common coping methods that people sometimes use.

Exercise also boosts the amount of endorphins which your body produces. Endorphins are natural chemicals that act as both painkillers and antidepressants, boosting your mood and helping you to feel better, even if you have only been exercising for a short time.

Improved energy levels.

If you often find that you are short of energy after carrying out your everyday tasks, then this suggests that you would benefit considerably from a regular exercise routine. Improving your fitness by participating in an exercise program will mean that your heart and lungs are working more efficiently. This will increase the amount of oxygen getting into your bloodstream, and then it will be transported to where it is needed more quickly, along with all of the other nutrients that your muscles need in order to work. This will mean that your energy levels will increase and you will not be as tired when completing various tasks.

Better sleep.

If you have been struggling to sleep at night, or you wake up on a regular basis, then you may find that exercise will help to reduce your symptoms. It is important that you don’t exercise immediately before going to bed, as this can lead to the adrenaline from the activity still being present in your body, which will keep you awake and make sleeping even more difficult. However, as long as the activity is carried out at least three hours before you go to bed, you should notice the benefit. In the middle of the afternoon is the ideal time to exercise as far as your body is concerned, but this is rarely practical in today’s world.

Exercise can help to prevent osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is something that is generally associated with older women, and it is the thinning of the bones, leading to an increased risk of fractures. However, you can help to reduce your risk of developing this debilitating condition in the future by participating in exercise now. It is important that it is a weight-bearing form of exercise, in order to have this effect, so consider something like running or a dance class.

How to exercise safely

If you are completely new to aerobic exercise, then it is important that you start slowly. There are some tips you should follow in order to prevent injury, and these are particularly important for beginners, though should always be taken into consideration, however experienced you are.

You will need suitable footwear for your activity. If you are taking up running, or have joined a gym, then this will probably be a pair of running shoes. Get these fitted properly at a specialist shop, where they will be able to advise you on suitable shoes. They may also offer to analyze your gait when you run, as this can affect the style of shoe that you need.

If you are using the gym, you should make sure that you have a complete induction first. This will show you how to use all of the equipment correctly, which is important to help prevent injuries. It will also be extremely beneficial to plan an exercise program with one of the instructors. If you tell them what you are trying to achieve as a result of your exercise, they will be able to advise you of the best workout to help you reach your goals. As a busy woman with limited time, as most of us are, the workout routine they give you should be reasonably short. Make a point of asking about this, if time is one of your biggest concerns.

You may be surprised to find that some weights routines are also incorporated into your planned workout. This is actually extremely beneficial, especially if your goal is weight loss. You will find that combining cardiovascular exercise and weight training will lead to even more fat being burned than cardio would manage alone, so even if you are sceptical, give it a try. The results after just a few weeks may surprise you.

Regardless of whether you are new to exercise or not, you absolutely must warm up before you begin the main part of your workout routine. Taking five minutes to prepare your body for exercise is absolutely essential, every time, so don’t ever be tempted to skip this part. The warm up helps to prevent injury such as muscle strain, by slowly increasing the amount of work that is being done, rather than shocking the system by jumping straight into a high intensity routine. A brisk walk, or moving through the motions of your normal routine at a slower pace, would be suitable.

Once you have done your initial warm up, stop and stretch. Stretching increases your flexibility, while also ensuring that blood is flowing through your muscles properly. Having a good blood supply in the muscles while you exercise will help to prevent cramps, meaning that you can continue for longer before getting tired and sore.

After your workout, you should do a brief cool down. Again, five minutes will be long enough. An activity similar to that of your warm up will be suitable, for example, a walk. This time, however, instead of picking up your pace as you go through the time, you should slow down. This helps your muscles to relax and return to their usual level of activity. You should also repeat your stretching sequence. This is particularly important after you have exercised. Activity can cause your muscles to shorten, and you will notice this if they feel tighter than usual. Stretching lengthens the muscle fibers again, helping to restore them to their usual position, which will mean that you ache less the following day.

Starting slowly

If you are new to the idea of exercising, and going to the gym is just too intimidating at the moment, then there are ways you can get a cardio workout and begin to both lose weight and increase your fitness. Go for a brisk walk once a day. If you work, you still have time to do this because you can fit it into your lunch hour. Walk for twenty minutes, and then eat your lunch. This will help even more with those weight loss efforts because after exercising, your metabolism will be faster than it was before. This means that more calories from your food will be used for energy, and the amount stored as fat will be reduced. For this reason, after exercise is one of the best times to eat.

As your body becomes accustomed to this level of exercise, pick it up even more by increasing the pace and walking for thirty minutes instead. If you can persuade a friend to join you, it will feel like less of a chore and more of an enjoyable activity, meaning that you are more likely to do it every day. If this isn’t an option, put a pair of headphones on and listen to music. This will act as a distraction and stop you from focusing so much on the exercise.

What if I don’t take a lunch break, some of you might ask. You are entitled to do so, whatever your job is, so make sure you do. Getting away from your desk and moving around, even if it is only for a short time, is extremely healthy. Eating at your desk and sitting still all day, after all, will have contributed to the weight gain which you may now be trying to combat.

Quick cardio workouts to do at home

When finding time to exercise is difficult, what you really need are some simple routines that you can do at home, in just a few minutes and without needing much in the way of equipment.

Firstly, get yourself a skipping rope. Yes, this may take you back to your days at school, but it is excellent exercise, and will get your heart pumping quickly. The rope should just skin the floor as you turn it, and you don’t need to jump too high – just enough to allow the rope to pass under your feet. Skip as fast as you can for one minute, rest for a minute, and then repeat. Do this five or six times, which provides a good workout and will only take around ten minutes, including resting.

Star jumps, or jumping jacks, can also be done just about anywhere, as long as you have space to lift your arms. As with the skipping, do as many as you can in one minute, and then rest for the same length of time. Repeat several times.

Squat jumps are another easy cardio exercise. Squat down, with your hands by your knees. Jump up, reaching up to the ceiling with your arms. When you land (and try to do it softly, to avoid injury), immediately squat down and repeat. Do as many as you can in a minute.

Jogging can also be a good option. Jog on the spot, but make sure you lift your knees high. This is actually more difficult to maintain than you might initially think, and you should keep going for an entire minute, if you can.

Finally, do some lunges. Stand up straight, with your feet hip-width apart, then step forward and lower your body. Hold for a couple of seconds, then return to the start and repeat with the other leg.

To introduce some variety into your workout, do each of these for one minute, with a minute’s rest in between. When this feels as though it is becoming too easy, then stick to the same exercises, but cut out the rest periods. This increases the intensity of the exercise, but shortens the time to just five minutes, plus your warm up and cool down, which should never be ignored. Finally, do the entire circuit twice without the rest breaks. This gives you a high intensity ten minute exercise routine, all of which can be done at home. All you need is a skipping rope and something to time your exercise with, and even if you don’t have a stopwatch, most phones now have this feature.

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