It’s called by different names but whether you say cardio or aerobic fitness, this form of exercise utilizes oxygen for energy production for long periods making your heart and lungs work at a higher level, promoting stronger cardio-vascular fitness. Just to recap those benefits, they are:
- Decreases body fat
- Increases sensitivity to insulin
- Decreases blood sugar levels
- Improves sleep
- Improves reflexes
- Decreases age related memory loss
- Improves balance
- Helps contribute to muscular endurance and flexibility
- Improves mood
I would like to explore the last bullet line a little further.
When we improve the heart’s ability to pump blood though out the body, the blood flow to the brain also increases. More oxygen and nutrients to this organ will enhance its overall function. Here are a few ways this type of exercise may help:
1. The growth of new brain cells. Studies (in rats) have shown that aerobic activity generated new brain cells in the area known for memory, planning and judgment. Maybe a trip to the gym before you start on a demanding project for work will help.
2. Improves your mood. An increased heart rate allows more of the amino acid L-tryptophan to enter the brain. L-tryptophan is needed to produce serotonin, which is a mood enhancer. Feeling low? Try a 30 minute workout.
3. Can act as an antidepressant. Studies have shown that aerobic activity can be as effective as antidepressants for those with mild to moderate depression. Exercise also helps in boosting self-esteem by improving one’s fitness, weight loss and improving one’s health. Discuss with your doctor if exercise maybe an alternative to starting antidepressants. Do not stop taking any medication without discussing with your doctor.
4. May calm anxiety and decrease worries. Exercise can be used as a distraction when you become overwhelmed with negative thoughts and worries. A quick 20 minute brisk walk before an important job interview may be just what you need.
5. Helps reduce hormonal related symptoms associated with Premenstrual Syndrome, peri-menopause, and menopause. Wouldn’t you rather be flushed and hot from a good workout?
Adding Cardio-respiratory activity can help your body, your health and your mind.