Cardio (aerobic) exercise gets your heart pumping and oxygenated blood flowing – it’s an important part of any fitness routine. But it doesn’t just benefit your heart; regular cardio training increases your endurance and stamina, helping you get through your daily activities with less effort and more energy. And it can lower your cholesterol, reduce high blood pressure and even reverse some signs of heart disease.
The most common form of cardiovascular exercise is brisk walking, but you don’t need to be a marathon runner to incorporate cardiovascular activity into your lifestyle. Most forms of physical movement, including swimming, dancing, cycling and HIIT workouts, can count as cardio exercise. It’s best to gradually increase the intensity of your workout over time, so you can sustain it for longer periods without losing your energy.
Aerobic exercise increases your metabolism, so you burn more calories throughout the day, helping to maintain or lose weight. It also boosts your endurance, so you can complete tasks like a long hike or a marathon with less fatigue and discomfort. Consistently engaging in cardiovascular exercise over the long term can also delay the onset of diabetes, certain cancers and heart disease.
It also stimulates the release of endorphins, which enhances mood and lowers stress levels. In addition, regular cardio can help regulate blood sugar, a problem that affects millions of Americans with Type 2 diabetes.
Your heart, like any muscle, becomes stronger with regular aerobic exercise. The heart can then move more oxygen-rich blood with each beat, both during and at rest, which helps to improve your circulation and prevent or treat a wide range of health conditions.
Cardio can also help lower your blood pressure, enhance “good” HDL cholesterol, lower bad LDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, depression and anxiety. Exercise can also help control blood sugar and lower blood fats that can contribute to clot formation and inflammatory diseases.
Experts recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardio exercise per week. This can be broken down into several shorter sessions if that’s easier for you to manage. One continuous session or multiple short sessions can both help you achieve your cardio exercise goal each week. Konditionsträning