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When you’re huffing, puffing and working up a sweat on the treadmill, it can seem like a lot of pain to burn just a couple of hundred calories. But cardio is about much more than burning energy. By getting your heart pumping hard you can feel better, improve your health, protect yourself against chronic disease and live longer. Cardio, short for cardiovascular, is any activity that speeds up your heart rate and increases your blood circulation. Whether you like to cycle, run, swim, dance or mix it up, cardio should be a key part of any fitness routine and a vital part of everyone’s life.

When you’re huffing, puffing and working up a sweat on the treadmill, it can seem like a lot of pain to burn just a couple of hundred calories. But cardio is about much more than burning energy. By getting your heart pumping hard you can feel better, improve your health, protect yourself against chronic disease and live longer.

Cardio, short for cardiovascular, is any activity that speeds up your heart rate and increases your blood circulation. Whether you like to cycle, run, swim, dance or mix it up, cardio should be a key part of any fitness routine and a vital part of everyone’s life.

Burn and Boost

Aerobic activity will burn calories and help you lose fat, or allow you to eat more without piling on the pounds. And the benefit doesn’t stop with the energy expenditure figure on the treadmill dashboard. Activity also gives your metabolism a kick-start, speeding up other body processes. The more intense the session, the greater the boost to your metabolic age, with intense interval training (HIIT) providing real benefits, preventing weight gain, obesity and all the associated diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

 

Happy Hormones

Aerobic exercise that gets the heart pumping also stimulates the release of the body’s feel-good hormones, endorphins, which decrease pain and give a sense of wellbeing, they’re the reason you can get a real buzz out of going for the burn. The benefits also extend beyond the gym, with people who exercise regularly being less likely to suffer depression.

 

Better Recovery

If you’ve been hitting the weights hard, some gentle cardio can help speed up your recovery. Bumping up your heart rate will boost the blood flow in your muscles, speed up the clearance of waste products and decrease post workout pain, so that you can get back to training quicker.

 

Stressbusting

When we are stressed, our body releases adrenaline, dopamine and noradrenaline as part of our body’s fight or flight mechanism. That was great when we were cavemen, fighting predators, but if they hang around for too long in the body they can leave you at risk of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and mental health problems. Cardiovascular exercise can burn off these stress hormones, and dissipate the biochemical and physical changes caused by their release, decreasing the blood pressure and easing muscular tension.  Research also shows that the physical fitness that regular cardio can help you achieve can protect you against stress and stress-related chronic diseases.

 

A Healthy Heart

The heart is just like any other muscle, by getting it to work hard and then allowing it to rest and recover it becomes stronger and better at its job. A strong heart can pump blood more efficiently at a slower rate, improving blood flow throughout the body.

 

Keeping Arteries Clear

Regular cardio can improve the balance of lipids in your bloodstream. The levels of the good cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) are boosted and the bad, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) are decreased. This can help prevent the arteries getting furred up with atherosclerosis and prevent heart disease and stroke.

 

Dealing with Diabetes

As well as helping prevent type 2 diabetes, exercise may also help people with the disease control their blood sugars. By doing resistance training followed by cardio, the muscles become more adept at using blood sugar, helping to stabilize levels and prevent dangerous swings.

 

There are plenty of reasons to get off the sofa and get your heart pumping faster. Regular cardio will help you look good, feel great, fight disease and live a long and healthy life.

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