Cardiovascular health and endurance are some of the most important aspects of our well-being and longevity. Improving our cardiovascular endurance can benefit us in our daily lives by making it easier to carry out daily tasks, such as something as simple as walking up a flight of stairs. It can also reduce all cause mortality by a significant amount by reducing our chances of conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other life shortening diseases.
Performing consistent cardiovascular activities on a weekly basis can have a myriad of extensive benefits on our health, these include:
1- Brain Health: Improves memory and cognitive ability, fights against the decline in brain function as we age, and helps protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
2- Joint Health: Increasing blood flow to the joints helps improve their range of motion, manage and prevent arthritis, and combats osteoporosis.
3- Healthier Skin: improved blood flow and circulation helps keep our skin healthy and looking young.
4- Weight Management: Less time sitting and more time moving increases our daily caloric expenditure.
5- Muscles: improved oxygen supply to our muscle cells, and an increase in cardio endurance allows our muscles to increase their capability of undergoing a larger workload. Which makes daily tasks easier, and benefits carry over to our weight lifting sessions as well.
6- Sexual Health: improved blood flow, psychological health and circulation can improve erectile function in men and enhance sexual arousal in women.
7- Sleep: performing cardio during the day will help you fall asleep faster and for longer at night, and promotes getting into REM sleep.
8- Mood and Energy: the release of endorphins from exercising helps improve your mood and can lead you to living a happier and more fulfilled life filled with energy.
9- Improved Insulin Sensitivity: this will improve overall nutrient partitioning and increase insulin-stimulated glucose uptake.
10- Improved Immune System: doing cardio boosts your immune system by increasing the circulation of immune cells throughout your body. This will help you better prepare to fight off any possible sicknesses or infections.
Where can we get started to improve our cardiovascular health and endurance, in a safe and manageable way? Simply by walking! Taking part in brisk walking at a moderate pace for 150 minutes a week should be an initial goal we can all safely strive for. Even people who are already fairly fit can benefit from some additional walking! We can split this up into five 30 minute sessions per week, or three 50 minute sessions per week, whatever best fits in your weekly schedule. Another great way to keep track of our walking is having a step-counter in the form of a smart watch. A good number to shoot for is 8 to 10 thousand steps a day!
We can incorporate other safe and low-impact cardio activities to add some variety to our routine. Hiking, swimming, biking, rowing, and the elliptical are all great forms of cardio. We can also pick up a hobby that keeps us moving such as a sport, playing with our kids or family members outside, and walking or playing with our beloved pets! As our cardiovascular health improves, we can increase the difficulty of our exercises by adding intervals and slowly increasing the intensity of different activities over time.
Beginning Cardio Program Example:
Monday – 30 minutes brisk walk
Tuesday – 15 minutes cardio rower, 15 minutes elliptical
Wednesday – 30 minutes brisk walk
Thursday – 15 minutes stair master, 15 minutes incline walk on treadmill
Friday – 30 minutes brisk walk
Saturday and Sunday – enjoy some family time, and encourage them to be active with you!