How Cardio Strengthens More Than Just Your Heart

Feb 19, 2024


In this blog post we’re diving deep into the engine of your body – your muscles and cardiovascular system – to reveal the astounding benefits of cardiorespiratory training. If you’ve ever wondered about the science behind the sweat, the reason your heart beats faster, and how it all translates into a stronger, more vibrant you, then buckle up! We’re about to embark on an invigorating journey through the fascinating world of muscle fibers, energy conversion, and the long-term perks of keeping your heart in top shape.


Understanding Your Muscular Blueprint

Every time you go for a run, hop on your bike, or take a brisk walk, you’re not just burning calories; your body is engaging in a complex ballet of biological processes with your muscle fibers as the dancers. Each type has its own role in both endurance and strength training. Slow-twitch fibers are the marathon runners of your musculature, built for the long haul and vital for activities that require stamina. Fast-twitch fibers, on the other hand, are your sprinters – powerful and quick, perfect for that explosive strength.


But here’s where it gets even more interesting: cardiorespiratory training fine-tunes your mitochondria, the microscopic power plants within your muscle cells. They become more efficient at converting energy, making you an all-around energy powerhouse. Consistent cardio training is like charging your body's battery to it's full potential.


The Lifelong Heart Party

It’s not just about the muscles, though. Your heart, that tireless pump, reaps a whirlwind of benefits from regular cardio. Training your cardiovascular system actually decreases your heart’s workload in daily life by strengthening its pumping ability, and lowering your blood pressure. But your lungs join the party, too, with enhanced respiratory capacity and better oxygen utilization. It’s a full-body celebration of health, and everyone’s invited.  But even with all these benefits, I'm sometimes asked...


"Is a Lower Heart Rate Always Better?"

You may have heard that a lower heart rate is the gold standard of fitness, but it goes deeper than this. While it’s true that exercise can initially raise blood pressure, the long-term effects of regular physical activity tell a different story. With consistent effort, high blood pressure can be tamed, and the risk of heart disease plummets. But beyond this, requiring your body to perform intense physical activity without providing it the nutrients and rest to do so will take a negative toll on the metabolism.  It’s about finding balance and understanding that your heart is designed to adapt and thrive through movement.  I've found that tracking heart rate along with basal body temps can be a more accurate marker.  The heart rate should ideally be around 60-70 at rest along with a resting body temperate of nothing lower than 98.2.  If it dips lower than this, the lower heart rate may no longer be a sign of health, but actually the body slowing down to compensate for a lack of energy intake along with excess stress.


Crafting Your Cardio Cornucopia

Maintaining heart health isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario. Variety is the spice of life, and the same goes for your workouts. Mixing up your cardio exercises keeps your body guessing and your mind engaged. Whether it’s swimming, cycling, dancing, or interval training, the key is to tailor your activities to your fitness level and, most importantly, what you enjoy.


Fit It In, Make It Fun

We know life gets busy, and it can be challenging to squeeze in workout time. But here’s some practical advice: start small, and stay consistent. Even short bursts of cardio can have significant health benefits. And why not make it enjoyable? Create playlists of your favorite tunes, find a workout buddy, or immerse yourself in the great outdoors. When exercise feels less like a chore and more like a joy, you’re setting the stage for a lifelong commitment to a heart-healthy lifestyle.


Remember that your body is a miraculous symphony of systems working in harmony. Cardio isn’t just a routine; it’s a vital component of your well-being. So, the next time you’re considering skipping out on the cardio because you've heard it might be "too stressful", think again.  There is of course a time to sit things out and rest, but challenging oneself in a cardiovascular capacity should be a part of everyone's life.


Learn More

I dive into this subject much deeper in my podcast ep: S5|E08: Do You Really Need to Be Doing Cardio?  I also share details on working up to a 5k and 10k!  In the show notes you'll find the plans. 🎉



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