Health and Fitness Blog

What is Cardiovascular Fitness & What are the Benefits?

In the world we are living in today, people are finding it convenient to spend their time idling on their couches watching movie and TV series and playing video games.

Watching the latest TV series is not a problem at all but being inactive for too long can lead to life-threatening problems that can be prevented by being active.

If you want an all-natural way to improve your memory, lift your mood and protect your brain against the decline associated with aging, being physically active is the way to go.

When you decide to get active, one of the most common exercise programs you’ll hear is cardio.

But what exactly is cardio? If you’ve been asking yourself this question or you want to get active, you have come to the right place as we will tell you what cardiovascular fitness is & what are the benefits.

What Exactly is Cardiovascular Fitness?

Cardiovascular (cardio) fitness often called aerobic exercise is the ability of the heart, lungs, and blood cells to supply blood rich in oxygen to the working muscles and other organs and tissues in the body.

As a result, cardio fitness improves how your heart and lungs work which results in a lower resting heart rate.

In the simplest terms, cardio fitness stimulates the heart rate to beat faster than normal and this increases the rate of breathing in a sustainable way for the duration of the exercise session.

Cardiovascular fitness is improved by various activities that employ large muscle groups to work dynamically and some of them include jogging, walking, skating, stair climbing, running, and swimming.

Therefore, there are various choices to choose from based on what you like doing, what fits your personality, what’s accessible to you and what feels comfortable fitting in your life.

Scientifically, the human heart is just like any other muscle which becomes more efficient and stronger with exercise and how your heart works can be determined by the heart rate.

At rest, a healthy heart beats roughly 70 beats in a minute while a conditioned heart at rests beats 40-50 beats in a minute or less in severe cases.

For a healthy heart, experts recommend a moderate aerobic exercise of not less than 150 minutes or vigorous activity of not less than 75 minutes every week.

If you’d want to start a cardio fitness, one of the questions you’d be asking yourself is how to differentiate between moderate and rigorous activities and because we care so much about you, we will tell you.

If you love swimming or brisk walking, you will comfortably be engaging in a moderate activity but if you want a vigorous activity, cycling or running will sort you out.

Benefits of Cardiovascular Fitness

Now that you already know what cardiovascular fitness is and examples of cardiovascular activities, let’s look at the benefits and why doctors recommend them for healthy living.

Improves cardiovascular health

The human heart is a muscle that requires being worked for it to remain strong, failure to which it becomes weak over time which can lead to various negative health effects.

During cardio exercises, the heart becomes stronger to pump more blood throughout your body with each beat and continues to work at maximum level without much stress. In addition, cardio fitness helps to keep your artery clear and lowers blood pressure lowering LDL (‘bad’ low-density lipoprotein) and raising HDL (‘good’ high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol level in the blood.

If you’re looking forward to lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, do a moderate-to vigorous-intensity cardiovascular exercise for at least 40 minutes for about 3 to 4 times a week and have a healthy heart all your life.

Most importantly, instead of using a lift to get to your office, work your heart muscles instead by walking up the stairs.

Promotes brain health

Aging is inescapable and comes with various health problems such as memory loss. Interestingly, cardio fitness has been found to improve the health of the brain.

According to researchers, a sweaty and heart-pumping cardiovascular exercise increase hippocampus size, which is related to learning and verbal memory. In addition, cardio exercise, whether long term or short term boosts a person’s memory and brain health.

Therefore, if you want to have a sharp memory as you age, engage in a cardiovascular exercise plan that you’d be comfortable doing.

Improves fitness

Everybody desires to remain fit all their lives. Well, this may or may not be possible depending on how seriously you engage in exercise. Cardio exercises increase your ability to use oxygen by increasing the capacity of your heart to send oxygen-rich blood to your muscles.

Basically, ventricles, which are the heart’s pumping chambers are increased which eliminates the need for your heart to beat faster when delivering the same amount of blood.

That way, you experience a slower heart rate and a slower resting heart rate even for the same intensity of exercise and as you get fitter, other activities such as jogging, or walking become easier for you and this shows that your fitness has improved.

Weight control

If you are a couch potato, chances are that you have extra weight in your body which you could otherwise reduce by being active. Overweight may lead to obesity and with so many life-threatening diseases associated with being obese, you have a reason to get active.

Cardio exercise plays a huge part in burning up energy (calories) in your body and keeps your weight in check.

If you are struggling with extra body weight, experts recommend a regular low-to-moderate intensity cardio exercise to be done between 30 to 60 minutes which will do wonders in helping you lose weight.

Social benefits

There is a saying that no man is an island which has been said over the years, and it applies even today and for good reasons. Human beings need each other to survive and if you are not good at making friends and long-lasting relationships, a cardio exercise can help you out.

 Whether your cardiovascular fitness is meant to keep fit, lose weight or living healthily, you will always find someone to walk this journey with.

Besides, it could be boring when doing it all alone and if you walk with a friend, swim with your workmates or form a social cycling team, it gives you morale to regularly engage in this activity for a healthy living.

Improves bone and muscle health

As people age, the risk of osteoporosis increases, and the good news is that your bones can remain strong by engaging in regular weight-bearing cardio exercises like brisk walking.

According to experts, cardio exercises stimulate the growth of tiny blood vessels in the muscle tissues.

It also reduces the pain people with chronic back pain or fibromyalgia experience by improving the supply of oxygen to the muscles and at the same time removes waste products efficiently.

Regulates diabetes

People suffering from diabetes are advised to maintain a healthy diabetic meal plan and maintain the level of their blood glucose through medication. Interestingly, physical exercise like cardio can be very effective in managing diabetes.

Regular cardio exercises increase the ability of the muscles to utilize glucose especially to those with type-2 diabetes.

In its simplest, type-2 diabetes is a condition distinguished by too much glucose in the blood due to the inability of a person’s body to utilize insulin efficiently, or inability of the body to produce enough insulin to be processed.

During cardiovascular fitness, you reduce the glucose in your blood simply because your muscles can utilize glucose without insulin.

Whether you don’t have enough insulin, or you are insulin resistant, your muscles will get enough glucose during aerobic exercise which will, in turn, lower the levels of blood glucose.

Eases depression and fatigue and uplifts your mood

We are in the 21st century where people are working hard day and night to make ends meet.

That way, fatigue is experienced regularly and if not relieved, it leads to depression and stress.

Without a doubt, people can only be in a good state of mind for them to excellently manage life’s activities.

Going to the gym could lead to even more stress but the good news is that you can ease depression, stress, anxiety and uplift your mood through cardiovascular fitness.

Basically, aerobic exercise initiates change in a part of the brain responsible for managing anxiety and stress.

As you engage in the exercise that fits your lifestyle, the brain becomes sensitive to hormones nor-epinephrine and serotonin that eventually send relief to any feeling of stress and depression.

Decrease the risk of chronic disease

Lack of physical exercises is the leading cause of chronic diseases and in most cases, it leads to a belly fat gain which has been associated with premature death, heart diseases, and type-2 diabetes.

Fortunately, chronic diseases are manageable especially with cardiovascular fitness which improves the sensitivity of insulin, decrease blood pressure and reduce body composition.

If you have excess belly fat, enroll in a cardio exercise program and it will excellently help you to lose it and reduce other serious diseases it’s associated with.

Improves the quality of sleep and relaxation

There’s a perception that exercise leads to sleeplessness but on the contrary, it helps you to relax and improves sleep quality.

What happens is that as you exercise, you deplete a lot of energy which stimulates the process of health restoration when sleeping, and this ensures that you sleep soundly and wake up the next day refreshed.

One research found out a more than 65% improvement of sleep quality to those that performed 150-minutes cardio in a week.

Another study found out that cardio activity increases the sleep duration in people suffering from insomnia and the same results are experienced to people with sleep disorders.

It boosts your sex life

Besides boosting your confidence, being physically active increases a person’s sex drive. According to experts, any aerobic exercise strengthens the cardiovascular system thereby improving your stamina which is very important for an excellent sex session for both women and men.

Also, aerobic exercise enhances flexibility, builds muscle tones, and enhances blood circulation, all of which lead to improved sex quality. Undeniably, it also increases sexual pleasure and sex performance thereby leading to an improved sexual activity frequency.

To be more specific, aerobic exercise reduces erectile dysfunction in men and improves orgasm in women.

Improves the health of the skin

We are in the 21st century where people are judging others by the condition of their skin. Having a glowing skin is not a matter of the lotion you apply but how physically active you are.

According to research, aerobic exercise clears your complexion and leads to an improved healthy skin because it increases the flow of blood which in turn keeps your skin vibrant and glowing.

It’s affordable and accessible

Many people avoid physical exercise due to the perception that they must have fancy and expensive equipment or have a gym membership.

Fortunately, you do not need all that and you can keep fit without spending a dime. For instance, you can take a walk around your neighborhood in a company of your favorite pet, friend or lover, or join your neighbors in a jogging session.

Aerobic exercises are safe for most people

Aerobic exercises are fit for most groups of people such as the young, the old and those with chronic health conditions.

If you want the exercise to benefit you, consult your doctor who will recommend an exercise program based on your lifestyle and situation.

Reduces the risk of falls

Studies found out that one in three people aged 65 years and above fall every year and are at a higher risk of broken bones which could lead to disabilities and life-threatening injuries.

The good news is that aerobic exercise works excellently in reducing the risk of falls and to make it even better, it can be done by anybody regardless of the age.

A study carried out on women between 72 to 87 years old unveiled that aerobic dance promotes better balance and agility and reduces the risk of falling.

In addition, aerobic exercise enhances physical strength that usually protects your body from falls.

Boosts your energy

Cardiovascular fitness involves becoming physically active which improves your stamina and ensures that you don’t get tired quickly.

Research has it that aerobic exercise is beneficial to healthy and unhealthy individuals including those with serious illness and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). In other words, aerobic exercise boosts your energy and stamina and reduces fatigue.

Improves your recovery ability

After spending quality time in the gym, cardiovascular exercise is the most appropriate exercise that excellently improves your recovery ability. A walk around your neighborhood or a light jog can do wonders in removing some of the by-products created when lifting objects.

In addition, cardiovascular fitness reduces your delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS) and plays an important role in supplying oxygen-rich blood to the muscles tissue which in turn enhances the process of repair and rebuilding.

Therefore, if going to the gum is in your blood, you can engage in cardiovascular fitness between gym sessions and continue working your muscles again without being fatigued.

Cardiovascular fitness has a positive impact on your gut

Aerobic exercise has been scientifically proven to change the makeup of the microbes found in the human gut. Microbes play a huge role in the levels of inflammation which could be an early sign of diseases.

Participating in a regular aerobic exercise for 3-5 times a week for a period of 6 weeks increases the concentration of fatty acid famously known as butyrate which keeps the gut in control as it presses down inflammation and produces energy.

Reduces the symptoms of asthma

If you are suffering from asthma, researchers have good news as you can lessen the severity and frequency of asthma attack by an aerobic exercise but choose an exercise with shorter bursts of activity such as baseball or tennis.

However, you should consult your doctor before beginning a cardiovascular routine for professional recommendations and guidance.

Strengthens immune system

Pennsylvania State University researchers conducted research on sedentary and active women and examined the impact of exercise on their immune system.

In their research, one group of women conducted a vigorous activity for more than 30 seconds, another group conducted an exercise for 30 minutes on a treadmill and the last group conducted no exercise.  

The blood of these women was taken before the exercise, at various intervals within the days and weeks of study and after the exercise. The researchers found out that regular and moderate aerobic exercises increase immunoglobulins in the blood which strengthens the immune system.

They also found no improvement in the immune system to the group of inactive women meaning that aerobic exercise strengthens your immune system.

Important Tips when Choosing a Perfect Cardio Exercise for your Lifestyle

There’s no best cardio exercise

It is likely that your workmates tell you about how great their cardiovascular fitness is until you are tempted to try the same. However, you must understand that what works for your friend may not work for you.

There’s no best cardio exercise and you should avoid any exercise that makes you weak and consider anything that increases your heart rate, even if it means washing your car.

Cardiovascular fitness is not about what you do but how hard you do it

There is no exercise that’s too hard or too easy – it all depends on how you take it. For instance, walking is easy, but you can make it a bit challenging by speeding it up, pumping your arms, and walking up the hills. If doing vigorous and challenging exercises, make them easy by having constant breaks.

Do the exercise you enjoy

There are various aerobic exercises and you should choose the one that you enjoy, or rather something you could tolerate.

If you don’t like gym workouts, don’t force yourself just because your friends or family members are into it. Instead, jog, walk or go biking and you’ll keep fit as you enjoy outdoor scenery.

If you’d want to make new friends, consider walking or jogging with friends around your neighborhood or join your favorite sports and your body will benefit just like the person who goes to the gym.

Choose something that will fit your weekly schedule

An exercise program is a commitment that requires discipline in order for it to be effective. Aerobic exercise should be done three days a week and if you wish to start up and experience the benefits it’s associated with, you should do the exercise as recommended and not less.

Therefore, choose an activity that will be convenient for you to do constantly until it becomes a habit.

Be flexible

Doing the same thing over and over again leads to boredom, and exercise is no exception. Fortunately, cardio exercise allows you to choose any activity as long as it can raise your heart rate.

This means that it’s not mandatory to force your body into doing the same workout every week or every workout session, as you can change and do the ones you are flexible with.

Keep the activity simple

When starting a cardiovascular fitness routine, people are confused about what to start with and how long it should take.

What you need to understand is that your body is not used to exercise and as experts recommend, start with basic then advance as your body adjusts.

For instance, allocate at least 20 minutes of your time on three different days a week and choose something you’ll be comfortable doing, such as walking, jogging, running, or vigorous yard work. Make it a habit and later work on your intensity and time.

Bottom Line

There are various forms of exercises but what makes cardiovascular fitness different is that it enhances the ability of the lungs and heart to supply blood rich in oxygen to the working muscles.

It also enhances the ability of the muscles to use this oxygen to provide enough energy for movement.

Aerobic exercise has tremendous benefits to the body as it improves cardiovascular health, promotes the health of the brain, improves fitness, controls weight, has social benefits, improves muscle and bone health, regulates diabetes, eases depression, decrease the risk of chronic disease, helps you to sleep soundly, boost sex life, promotes a glowing skin, its affordable and safe for people of all age group, reduces the risk of falls, boost your energy among others.

The best thing about cardiovascular fitness is that it’s free and can be done from anywhere without the need for any exercise equipment.

Therefore, because you already know what cardiovascular fitness is & what are the benefits, add cardio to your daily life and begin experiencing many of these amazing health benefits.

As a rule of thumb, keep your cardio fitness simple by starting from somewhere and making it a goal to accomplish something every day, regardless of how long it might be, keeping in mind that as you practice constantly, it will become easier for you.