Oh, the dreaded cardio. I think it's safe to say most people would rather have to do some public speaking than do some cardio. However, much like flossing your teeth, we hate doing it, yet know it's good for us. How good? Good enough that we've compiled 7 incredible benefits of cardio workouts. Believe it or not, doing cardio can be just as beneficial as strength training.
Never mistake tears for sweat.
1. Reduced Dementia Risk
Seeing a loved one deteriorate from dementia makes for a type of suffering nobody should have to endure. Fortunately, research has discovered a possible preventative measure to ward off dementia in the form of cardiovascular exercise. This study conducted in association with the University of Gothenburg found:
"Among Swedish women, a high cardiovascular fitness in midlife was associated with a decreased risk of subsequent dementia. Promotion of a high cardiovascular fitness may be included in strategies to mitigate or prevent dementia."
2. Helps High Blood Pressure
If you're afflicted with hypertension jump on your closest treadmill or elliptical machine now. Getting your blood pumping will lower your blood pressure. Researchers at the University of Louisville and the University of Udine in Italy have found that an aerobic exercise program is equivalent to an antihypertensive drug. They state:
"In both younger and older persons with hypertension, regular aerobic exercise reduces blood pressure. Important mechanisms contributing to exercise-related blood pressure reduction include a decrease in aortic stiffness and enhanced flow-mediated arterial dilation due to increased nitric oxide release from endothelial cells lining these blood vessels."
3. Makes Getting Older Suck Less
The older we get, the more we're at risk for disease, ailments and all sorts of physical maladies. There's no avoiding it, but we can certainly reduce the risk. The University of Cairo and the University of British Columbia learned that regular cardio acts as a shield to a wide array of diseases. They note in their study that:
"...physical activity and exercise training reduce the risk of age-associated diseases, namely, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, colon cancer, obesity, osteoporosis, sarcopenia, anxiety, and cognitive impairment. Most importantly, exercise improves the quality of life of elderly people."
Covering bumper-to-bumper is best.
4. Gets Your Heart Muscle Sexy and Swole
Ok, so it'll be quite hard to put your heart on display like other "show muscles" (your biceps for example). However, your heart functions as your #1 "go muscle." Who wouldn't want a bigger, stronger heart? After all, doesn't a bigger heart mean better lovin'? A group of researchers from around the world proved that with cardiovascular exercise:
"...all four heart chambers increase in volume with mild increases in wall thickness, resulting in greater cardiac mass due to increased myocardial cell size."
5. Naturally Enhances Brain Function
When you do your cardio, your brain reaps big rewards. We've actually discussed this topic before but in regards to strength training. The common thread between the 2 types of exercise is the boost of BDNF your brain benefits from. Researchers at the University of Missouri, Columbia learned that:
"Many exercise-related improvements in cognitive function have been associated with local and systemic expression of growth factors in the hippocampus, notably, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) (Neeper et al. 1995; Cotman and Berchtold 2002). BDNF promotes many developmental functions in the brain, including neuronal cell survival, differentiation, migration, dendritic arborization, and synaptic plasticity."
6. Keeps Your Performance Up...in the Bedroom
Erectile dysfunction afflicts a lot of men, especially after the age of 40. However, some studies show that the number of men in their 30s who suffer from erectile dysfunction is on the rise. A study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found a correlation between cardiovascular exercise and improved erectile dysfunction symptoms. Not only that, but the same study also noted the complementary benefit of resistance training.
"Our results indicate that continuous and interval-based aerobic training improve erectile function for men with arterial ED. Physical activity with moderate intensity and intervals of vigorous intensity seems to be one of the key elements in determining the efficiency of the applied physical exercise, which is in concordance with findings in the systematic review and meta-analysis of Silva et al12 and Lamina et al.3 Our review also showed that resistance training can complement aerobic exercises."
Secret menu adult Happy Meal.
7. Gains Without the Pains
Aerobic exercise has been shown to kick your endocannabinoid system into gear. (Yes, if you don't know already, the naturally occurring neurotransmitter closely resembles the effects of cannabis.) The post-workout effects of your endocannibinoid systems include "antinociception." That's a fancy way of saying your sensitivity to pain is reduced. Researchers at the Federal University of Minas Gerais Brazil revealed the analgesic effects of exercise, saying:
"These results indicate that exercise could activate the endocannabinoid system, producing antinociception."
Get Up and Running
With its bevy of advantages, why wouldn't anyone be hitting that rower hard? If you have any reluctance to sweat it out, these 7 incredible benefits of cardio workouts should have powered-up your motivation to level: party off the pounds.
Do what Richard does, but don't be a...