The word ‘cardio’ is often met with a visceral response; you either love or loathe it. If you’re in camp ‘loving it’, you’re in the minority.
Over the past few years gym-goers have been encouraged to ditch long periods on the treadmill in favour of shorter, high intensity sessions. HIIT (high intensity interval training) has become the ‘it’ way to train. Whilst it offers incredible benefits, are you losing out by ditching steady-state cardio altogether?
The good news is cardio is making a comeback. Just like fashion, fitness trends swing from one extreme to another until we land in the middle. Remember when we were all avoiding fat? Or the anti-carb movement?
WHAT IS ‘CARDIO’?
Cardio is the nickname given to any type of activity that elevates the heart for a period of time. The cardiovascular system is the system that involves the heart, blood vessels and the muscles the vessels supply. The better and stronger this network, the fitter you become.
Interval training is a form of cardio, just as lifting weights in a particular way. Walking, swimming and running are also forms of cardiovascular exercise, each drawing from a different energy system (or energy tank) that uniquely benefits how our body functions and performs.
Most recently, endurance style cardio (otherwise known as aerobic conditioning or ‘steady-state’) has gained a bad reputation. But these long, slow cardio workouts are not the issue – the problem lies in the “over-doing” of it, especially when coupled with a fragile lifestyle (high stress levels, low calorie diets, poor sleep hygiene, poor gut health).
In actual fact, aerobic conditioning is extremely important and has many benefits. Here are three reasons why you should include a cardio workout into your schedule.
1. CARDIO IS HEART PROTECTIVE
If you want to live a long life you need to protect your brain, heart and lungs. Cardiovascular training enhances the functions of each of these organs and keeps them healthy. In Australia, heart disease kills four times more Australian women than breast cancer. Hypertension (one of the risk factors for heart disease) is controlled through lifestyle modifications such as being fit and active, reducing stress and managing weight. Cardiovascular training mitigates these risk factors.
2. CARDIO HELPS TO MAINTAIN WEIGHT
The evidence is clear; if you want to maintain your weight or body shape you must have a favorable calorie balance. You can achieve this by manipulating energy in, energy out or a combination of the two. Working out in a gym can only contribute so much to this balance and it is necessary to bump up the energy expenditure. Walking or jogging are great ways to do this and in a society that is predominantly based around sitting, it is a necessary task.
The average Australian takes 7,400 steps per day, which falls well short of the mark needed for baseline health. Moral of the story? Get your butt up and out of the chair and walk as much as possible (yes, this is considered cardio).
3. CARDIO IS GOOD FOR MENTAL HEALTH
Modern living brings modern issues. We are more stressed out than ever before and experience anxiety, depression and overwhelm on a daily basis. Cardio training is a healthy coping strategy for getting through those stressful and anxiety-ridden moments. It has a positive effect on brain chemistry, releasing the hormones that make you feel good and optimistic.
Focus on getting 10,000 steps into your day and if you feel like going for a run or hitting that Elliptical then go for it – your brain and body will thank you.