Most people think about how cardio or aerobic exercise can be an activity that increases your heart rate and improves your overall cardiac health.
“When we talk about cardio exercise, we tend to focus on maximum heart rate,” says Michael Smeltzer, certified exercise physiologist and wellness program coordinator at Summa Health Wellness Center. “But the health benefits of a cardio workout extend well beyond the heart and can have a positive impact on your entire body.”
If done regularly, cardio exercise can help improve many risk factors for heart disease.
“We tend to see improved cardiac function in a variety of areas including lower blood pressure and triglyceride levels,” says Smeltzer. “These two factors can significantly reduce risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke, and prevent many cancers as well.”
Being active can also strengthen your immune response.
“Cardio activity can increase certain antibodies to help fight off foreign intruders like the flu and cold,” says Smeltzer. It can also improve your mood and reduce stress. “A simple walk or taking a few laps around the office can be enough to clear your mind and keep you from using a negative coping strategy.”
At least 150 minutes of moderate- or low-intensity exercise per week is recommended.
“It doesn’t have to be done all at once,” says Smeltzer. “Whether you do one 30-minute session for 5 days or three 10-minute bouts per day, you’ll realize the same benefits if you are consistent.”
If you are new to exercise, start small. “Every movement matters,” says Smeltzer. “Even something as simple as parking your car further away from the store to get some extra steps all adds up.”