Cardio for Valentine's: Take care of your heart

Physiotherapy, Kinesiology, Health Clinic

It's pretty common knowledge that exercise is good for us. According to all the research, a blend of cardiovascular and strength training makes for a healthier, happier human.

But what is it, exactly, that makes exercising our ticker (via cardio exercise) so important to our overall health? Why not just lift some weights and leave it at that? 

This Valentine's day it might behoove you to take care of your heart in both an emotional and a physical capacity.

Cardio, Defined

Cardiovascular exercise is any exercise that puts stress on your cardiorespiratory system. Put more simply, that means any training that gets your heart rate up and has you breathing hard. Some examples include brisk walking, running, biking, and aerobics classes.

Basically, if it gets your heart pounding leaves you breathing hard, you've hit the nail on the head.

Cardio, Explained

Does a pounding heart and heaving breath sound like torture? Why would we put ourselves through that experience, and on a regular basis, no less?

When we exercise our heart starts pumping faster, and sends more blood to our muscles. With recurrent exercise, our heart becomes more efficient at doing so, meaning it becomes a stronger muscle with more longevity. Which, considering it's responsible for keeping us alive, is a good thing.

An added benefit of getting your heart rate up on a regular basis is that it lowers your standing heart rate (the rate at which your heart beats when you're not stressing it out with exercise). It makes sense: if putting the heart under a bit of healthy stress increases its efficiency, it'll be more efficient over all.

When your heart doesn't need to beat as many times to move blood through your body, your blood pressure lowers and your overall longevity increases. Win-win.

Cardio for Disease

Cardiovascular training is one of the top forms of disease prevention. Beyond just lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke (which it's really, really good for), it also reduces the risk of certain forms of cancer, coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, high blood pressure, and depression. 

At risk for any of the above? Hop on the treadmill, stat.

Cardio Myths & Misconceptions

We've all heard the old adage that you need 30 minutes of exercise 3 times weekly to have any impact on your health. 

But new studies have show that there's virtually no difference to your heart health if you do it all in one chunk, or three 10 minute sets of cardio throughout the day. (Note: if you're using cardio to lose weight, a 20-30 minute period of training is more effective.)

There's also a lot of confusion about what constitutes cardiovascular exercise. Things like yoga and lifting weights are often thought of as strictly strength training, when in fact they, too, have the ability to exercise your cardiovascular system.

Remember the two factors: if it gets your heart beating faster and your lungs working harder, you're likely exercising your cardiorespiratory system.

So, to summarize: get moving! Raise your heart rate every day, be it on a brisk walk home from work, or a challenging hike on the weekend. Take care of your ticker, and it'll take care of you.

And Happy Valentine's Day from everyone at Tall Tree!