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6 Benefits of Cardio Exercise

6 Benefits of Cardio Exercise

It seems like every month there’s a new exercise program. Although having multiple options can be a good idea, sometimes it turns out to be a little bit too much.

As for myself, I don’t have too much time on my hands and can’t spend hours in the gym. That’s why I have been looking for a program or some sort of routine to improve my fitness levels. Today, most fitness programs are just fads or trends — they aren’t based on scientific research. That’s why I decided to stick with the basics and do cardio. After all, its benefits have been well-documented. Here’s why you should try incorporating some cardio exercise into your own routine.

1. It promotes brain health

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    A Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience study showed that engaging in cardio exercise helps improves memory, brain health, as well as physical fitness in sedentary adults. The results suggest that even short-term exercise can be beneficial to long-term health.

    2. It improves heart health

    Heart Health

      Your heart is a muscle and, just like any other muscle in your body, in order to remain in good health, it has to be worked. Failing to “work” your muscles, including your heart, weakens them over time, thus heightening your risks for various diseases.

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      Cardio exercise is an excellent way to get your heart pumping at a faster rate to keep it in proper shape and optimal health. Plus, cardio exercise lowers your LDL (bad) cholesterol.

      3. It improves metabolism

      Metabolism

        Along with boosting your heart rate, cardio exercise increases the rate of various processes in your body, also known as metabolism. The more intense the cardio session, the more noticeable the increase in your metabolic rate.

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        4. It eases depression and fatigue

        Ease fatigue

          Performing cardio exercise releases hormones that help relieve symptoms of fatigue and depression. As an added benefit, hormones that decrease appetite are also released.

          5. It regulates diabetes

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          diabetes

            By performing cardio exercises regularly, you will increase your muscles’ ability to utilize glucose. Regular exercise also helps to keep your blood sugar levels under control, meaning you don’t experience as many blood sugar swings as people who don’t exercise regularly. Cardio exercises are particularly beneficial for diabetics, as they are extremely sensitive to changes in blood sugar levels.

            6. It has physical benefits

            Physical Benefits

              Cardio exercises burn up calories, thus helping you shed those extra few pounds. It’s also perfect for toning your muscles and improving posture. Your increased stamina and greater energy will make you more productive overall.

              Cardio exercise is a highly popular form of exercise — and for good reason. It’s linked with various health benefits that are well-documented. With regular exercise, both your physical and mental health will be improved, along with your sleep patterns and productivity.

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              Published on December 25, 2018

              Try These Flexibility Stretches to Enhance Your Daily Workout

              Try These Flexibility Stretches to Enhance Your Daily Workout

              Having a flexible body is essential for everyday life, and particularly for exercise. Think of all the things you do throughout your day that cause your muscles to tighten or create discomfort: Being stuck behind a desk, standing for long periods of time, repetitive motions, driving long distances, and exercising without properly maintaining a limber body are all ways that keep you from having a well-balanced and efficient lifestyle.

              To fully optimize your workout, it is necessary to be flexible in order to perform your exercises properly — by getting full range of motion in which your joints can potentially move. Here’s why:[1]

              When we don’t stretch before and after a workout, our muscles hold onto toxins, we risk injury, recovery time takes longer, and our performance is decreased.

              In order to prevent restrictive mobility, we must do flexibility stretches.[2] Common areas that need stretching and/or flexibility are the hips, back, knees, and ankles. In this article, you will see why it is not only important to stretch, but to balance the planes of motion in which our body parts move.

              How To Stretch

              Done consistently, the following flexibility stretches will enhance your workout, you will gain greater range of motion, improve balance, and recover more quickly for your next workout.

              Typically, a static stretch should be held for 20-60 seconds (International Sports Sciences Association), remembering not to overstretch which can cause injury as overstretching can cause pulled muscles and tears.

              In a comfortable stretch, you should feel just a slight pull without going beyond normal range of motion. Always be aware of your breathing during a stretch.

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              For example, if you are doing a flexibility movement for the knee, just before you go into the stretch, take a deep breath and then exhale once you are into the stretch. Breathing is important as it relaxes the muscles and helps to loosen them.

              Your body should be warm before stretching to increase blood flow. This can be a 3-minute ride on a stationary bike or slowly-controlled, 45-60 second body weight squats.

              Hips Stretches

              The hips tend to give us trouble when we get into our 40’s and 50’s, and the cause of pain is not always injury or over-use, but rather, lack of stretching in the hip flexor muscles.

              Even if you’re not a sedentary person, you walk throughout your work day, climb stairs, or stand for long periods of time, you must keep your hips flexible to keep them from tightening which can cause other problems, like lower back pain. (Everything is connected.)

              Oftentimes, people who are active tend to think that because they cycle, run, or perform other exercises that recruit the hip flexors, they don’t need to stretch because their hips are constantly moving; Not so. What people don’t recognize is that over time these and other movements create muscle imbalances, spasms, and affect posture.

              When your hips are flexible, the exercises that recruit gluteal muscles, like the squat and lunge, have better control. Take a look at these 4 hip flexor stretches by Guerilla Zen Fitness:

              Back/Spine Stretches

              The back and abdominal muscles support the core and are necessary to have a strong gait. In order to have a strong back, you must open up your chest and sides of your back with various stretches.

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              Sometimes, without noticing it, we rely on our back for a variety of movements, such as looking over our shoulder to pass safely in our vehicle, rising up from a chair, reaching up high for an object, etc.

              These passive movements seem easy, but without a stable core, you’re left with a weak spine and the movements can become challenging over time.

              Having a flexible spine and strong core is great for exercises like crunches, torso circles, side bends, lying leg raises, and sit-ups.

              Here are 3 spinal flexibility stretches by Strength Side:

              You can also incorporate regular yoga practice into your daily routine as a holistic approach to gaining flexibility in your back.

              One of my favorite things about yoga is that it moves energy throughout the entire body, with special attention to the spine. In addition, yoga helps to lengthen muscles and opens up the space between the ribs and vertebrae, which minimizes tension and reduces headaches and backaches.[3]

              Try these yoga poses that are not only good for flexibility but for overall relaxation. Hold each pose for 10 to 15 breaths:[4]

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                Knees Stretches

                The use of our legs to walk, run, swim or do any the movement that involves the legs also involves the knees. Flexibility in and around the knee joints is essential for mobility, and because everything is connected, flexibility in the knees will also create flexibility in other areas, such as the ankles, which will I will address next.

                So, if the exercises you perform on machines, such as the leg extension or leg curl, which move in the sagittal plane – that is, forward and backward or up and down – are among your go-to’s when training your lower body, you must have flexible knees.

                Here are 3 knee strengthening examples by Strength Side:

                Ankles Exercises

                Ankles run into all kinds of problems, like walking, wearing high heels or uncomfortable shoes, flat feet, trauma, improper footing when performing exercises, arthritis, and even swimming. All of these can cause tendonitis – The inflammation surrounding tendons in the lower leg muscles.

                Despite what it may look like, the foot does not remain in the same position during up-and-down movements which is why it is important to maintain flexibility in the muscles surrounding the ankle joint.

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                Flexibility allows for various positions (International Sports Sciences Association). In addition to the following exercises, R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) is also effective for relieving ankle pain. Here are some examples of how to increase ankle and foot mobility:

                Planes of Motion

                Balancing your body’s planes of motion is necessary, not only for weight training and other exercise, but for gaining flexibility as well.

                Our body is a powerhouse because it is not limited to a single plan of motion movement, and instead has the ability to move in multiple directions – Sagittal, frontal, and transverse.

                For example, when doing flexibility exercises for your back, you should also work our abdominal muscles. Similarly, when weight-training your quadriceps, you should balance them by also training your hamstrings. This creates balance, coordination, and functionality:[5]

                  Bonus Tip

                  Keep in mind that stretching can go hand-in-hand with the use of sports medicine equipment, such as a foam roller to pre-condition tight muscles and break up lactic acid, compression apparel to maintain warmth, and even a lacrosse ball to target trigger points.[6]

                  Now that you are familiar with stretches where common injuries occur, you should experience relief in multiple areas of your body and in your daily life. Tension, stress, and tight muscles can now be curtailed by effective stretching before and after your activities, and your muscles will be more relaxed and efficient, thereby increasing your performance.

                  More Resources About Stretching Exercises

                  Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

                  Reference

                  [1]Muscle Mechanics, International Sports Sciences Association, “Fitness: The Complete Guide,” page 166
                  [2]Flexibility Training, International Sports Sciences Association, “Fitness: The Complete Guide,” page 343
                  [3]Top Fuel Crossfit: Yoga Poses to Relieve Headaches: Lengthening the Spine
                  [4]Rukmani Iyengar: 5 Yoga Asanas to Reduce Back Pain
                  [5]Kai Simon: How To Improve Your Workout: Planes Of Motion
                  [6]Flexibility Training, International Sports Sciences Association, “Fitness: The Complete Guide,” page 343.

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