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Health Benefits Of Cardio Exercise

Last updated April 7, 2015

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has stated that performing moderate cardio for 30 minutes per day, 5 days a week or performing intense cardio for 20 minutes per day, 3 days a week significantly decreases the chances of developing heart disease.


Choosing to improve your fitness level by integrating consistent cardio exercise into your daily routine can prove to be advantageous for your health. However, did you know that exercise could prevent heart problems from occurring? Cardio/aerobic exercises are a category of exercises that improve the strength and endurance of the heart. There is clinical evidence to show that people who engage in daily cardio sessions have a lower incidence of heart problems. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has stated that performing moderate cardio for 30 minutes per day, 5 days a week or performing intense cardio for 20 minutes per day, 3 days a week significantly decreases the chances of developing heart disease.

Five ways in which cardio prevents heart problems:

  1. Improves endurance: A daily session of cardio improves aerobic capacity, i.e. improves the ability of the cells to utilize oxygen effectively, which enables a person to perform strenuous activities for a longer duration without fatigue. The hormonal response to exercise is also reduced, and the cardiac output increases, thus improving endurance. The higher the endurance, the higher the functional efficiency of the heart.
  2. Controls blood pressure: As mentioned earlier, regular cardio increases the endurance of the body and in turn, helps to combat physical and emotional stress. Stress is a risk factor for high blood pressure, which can be avoided with proper cardio. Additionally, cardio also improves blood flow and dilates the blood vessels; this helps to maintain normal blood pressure.
  3. Controls diabetes: Cardio improves the insulin response of the body and decreases the after-meal spikes of the blood glucose level, thereby controlling type-2 diabetes.
  4. Reduces blood cholesterol levels: The level of LDL/bad cholesterol drops significantly after performing cardio, and levels of HDL/good cholesterol rise. This action, in turn, reduces the thickening of blood and formation of clots inside blood vessels.
  5. Reduces weight: Cardio is an apt choice for losing weight. A daily session of moderate-to-intense cardio for a week helps to burn about 600-1,200 calories. Thus, cardio helps to combat obesity, a major risk factor of heart disease.

Guidelines for an Effective Cardio Workout:

Cardio workouts make the heart fit and prevent heart problems. To obtain the maximum benefits of cardio, it is essential to follow the guidelines set up by the ACSM:

  • Do not exceed your target heart rate while doing cardio; the target heart rate is 50-85% of the maximum heart rate/MHR (MHR=220-age).
  • Intense cardio workouts should only be performed for 20 minutes/day for 3 days a week.
  • Cardio should be discontinued at any sign of distress, chest pain, or difficulty breathing.
  • The intensity of cardio should be increased gradually.

A large number of activities fall under cardio workouts like jogging, running, skipping rope, running on a treadmill, stationary bicycling, kickboxing, circuit training, etc.; you can choose any or as many of them as you like. These cardio workouts are easy to incorporate into your daily routine and can be done at home or at the gym as convenient. Spending about 30 minutes a day for any cardio workout can lead to the prevention of heart disease.

References:

Patil, H.R., O’Keefe, J.H., Lavie, C.J., Magalski, A., Vogel, R.A., & McCullough, P.A. (2012). Cardiovascular damage resulting from chronic excessive endurance exercises. Mo Med, 109(4), pp. 312-21. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22953596

Mersy, D.J. (1991). Health benefits of aerobic exercises. Postgrad Med, 90(1), pp.103-7,110-2. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2062750

Aronow, W.S. (2001). Exercise therapy for older person with cardiovascular disease. Am J Geriatric Cardiol, 10(5), pp. 245-9;quiz 250-2. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11528282

Myers, J. (2003). Exercise and Cardiovascular Health. Circulation, 107,pp E2-E5. Retrieved from http://www.Circ.ahajournals.org/content/107/1/e2.full

(2011). ACSM Issues New Recommendations on Quantity and Quality of Exercise. Retrieved from http://www.ascm.org/about-ascm/media-room/news-release/2011/08/01/ascm-issues-new-reccommendations-on-quantity-and-quality-of-exercise

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: April 7, 2015
Last updated: April 7, 2015