The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of "heart-pumping" physical activity weekly. Meeting this weekly goal not only strengthens your heart, but helps prevent heart disease - all which can lead to a more active life long into your golden years.
Cardio exercise can be just about anything that gets the heart pumping faster. Cycling, jogging, dancing, boxing, and even walking fall within the category of cardio and can benefit the heart in a variety of ways.
A Stronger Heart
The heart is a muscle, and just like any other muscle, it gets stronger when trained intentionally and regularly. A strong heart is one that is prepared for the rigors of life, whether that's running a marathon or needing to take the stairs when the elevator is out of order.
Improved Oxygen Flow
The heart requires oxygen to stay healthy. Cardio increases the oxygen flow throughout the body, benefiting not only the heart, but the rest of the body - in particular, the brain - as well.
Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure puts a strain on your heart - one that can lead to heart disease, or other problems like kidney disease. Cardio can help lower blood pressure, taking the strain off your heart and allowing it to function at its best. Unchecked high blood pressure can lead to significant damage to the heart and other parts of the body.
Cardio - combined with a caloric deficit - can help you lose weight. Getting closer to your ideal weight will take strain off your heart and help it function more efficiently. Even a moderate amount of weight loss improves heart health, so it doesn't take a significant amount of weight loss to help the heart.
Better Cholesterol Numbers
High cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis, which is a form of heart disease and puts significant strain on the heart. Regular cardio can lower the "bad" cholesterol and raise the "good" cholesterol within the body, benefitting the heart greatly.
Decreased Risk of Heart Disease
The aforementioned benefits of cardio all add up to decrease the overall risk of heart disease; heart disease continues to be the number one cause of death for both men and women in the United States. While some people have heart disease as a result of a genetic issue, for many, it's completely preventable.
The Mind/Heart Connection
Cardio has been shown to be effective in helping people dealing with depression. Not surprisingly, depression can have a negative impact on the heart in very tangible ways. While cardio may not fully replace medication for some people with depression, it can be a suitable solution for keeping depression and other mental health issues at bay, which benefits the heart.
The stress hormone cortisol is reduced through cardio exercise. This hormone in perpetual elevated amounts is a risk factor for heart disease and is typically present in increased amounts among those with depression. While it's unclear whether excessive cortisol causes depression or if depression causes excess cortisol, it is clear that cardio can decrease cortisol levels, leading to a healthier heart.
Cardio and Sleep
Cardio has been shown to help sleep - not only in falling asleep faster, but in the quality of the sleep. Sleep deprivation puts a strain on the heart and may eventually contribute to the development of heart disease. When you regularly engage in cardio you will likely sleep better, which will in turn help your heart function better.
Healthy Life With a Healthy Heart
The heart is responsible for pumping blood to every part of the body, which in turn provides oxygen and nutrients to the body. The body simply can't perform at its best when the heart isn't healthy. Cardio - combined with proper dietary choices - can ensure the body stays as healthy as possible.