Cardio is more than fat loss – stress reduction

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Cardio is way more than a fat loss tool! Many people seem to have a very limited and inaccurate view of what cardio can do for them.  For some reason, many people love to hate cardio.  They think that cardio is just for fat loss and that if they don’t need to lose fat then they don’t need to do cardio.  Furthermore, they know that losing fat is calories in vs calories out and that they can lose fat without walking a single mile.  Cardio is way more than a fat loss tool!

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Cardio makes your heart and lungs more efficient.

Cardio is short for “cardiovascular exercise”, in other words, exercising your cardiovascular system meaning heart and lungs.  If you gasp for air after three flights of steps, then you are a DYEL when it comes to cardiovascular conditioning.  Cardio improves the efficiency of your heart and lungs meaning that you can run/bike/swim faster with fewer breaths and fewer heart beats.  A great way to measure cardiovascular improvement is by measuring your resting heart rate, why? Because your cardiovascular system is more efficient, when you are doing nothing, your heart rate can be very slow and still get all the necessary oxygen and nutrients to everywhere it has to go.  Ever thought about why doctors say that cardio makes your heart last longer?  Why would working your heart extra hard make it last longer when it has finite beats before it wears out?  Exactly for this reason, although the heart rate is very high during the cardio, because the other 23 hours of the day the heart rate is so low the net effect is fewer beats per day and thus, the heart lasts longer.

Cardio outside reduces stress and stress is the #1 killer.

Modern life is very, very stressful and most doctors will tell you that the vast majority of their patients visits are somehow stress related. If you can reduce stress you can reduce blood pressure and all kinds of other health problems as well.  Losing weight lowers blood pressure but does no necessarily lower the stress levels.  One of the most effective ways a person can reduce stress levels naturally is thru meditation.  Before you lose interest thinking I am about to get all new-age on you, realize that ‘meditation’ comes in many forms, many of which do not even look like meditation.  Yes, yoga can lower stress levels and decrease blood pressure but its even more simple than that.   Simply watching fish in an aquarium is really a form of meditation and it can lower your blood pressure.  For many, myself included, cardio can be a very effective and time efficient form of mediation although many people do not think of it as such.  Very time efficient because not only are you getting cardio to help lose fat and improve your cardiovascular efficiency but you are meditating at the same time – thats better than rubbing your belly and patting your head while standing on one foot and reciting the Declaration of Independence!

First of all, not all cardio is like meditation.  In fact, using a piece of stationary cardio equipment in a gym can put your blood pressure thru the roof.   It is NOT relaxing to do cardio in the gym with aTV blaring, three people screaming into their speakerphones, and the local radio station playing loud music you hate.  Many people make “good use” of their time on the stationary cardio equipment by doing all kinds of stressful, blood pressure raising activities like answering emails or talking on the cellphone.  This is one of the many, many reasons why I recommend to people that they do their cardio OUTSIDE because cardio outside or in a pool can be an awesome form of meditation.  Swimming laps for exercise is one of the most relaxing and wonder forms of cardio/mediation there is because you escape all the noise of modern life and can only hear your own bubbles.  Running outside where you can see squirrels, deer, trees, and deer makes it a lot easier to let the mind go and “get into the zone” so you can seemingly run forever – definitely a form of mediation.  Biking is my personal choice for mediation, I bike up the mountain.  Rather than listening to a podcast or music, I leave my electronics at home and listen to the birds and the squirrels which quickly becomes my focal point, my mantra, and then I suddenly find myself at the top of the mountain.  Hiking and walking are also awesome forms of exercise that let you mediate and even large cities have parks where you can get away from it all.

Cardio is more than losing fat!

People wonder why I make such a big deal about the importance of cardio and I guess I never did an adequate job explaining why I have hounded people on this issue for the last decade.  Cardio is more than just losing fat.  Cardio is more than just making your body a finely tuned machine that can effortlessly run 6 minute miles.  Cardio is about lowering stress and that is probably the most important reason of all.