Here at WodBottom, we spend a lot of time focused on lifting weights. Building strong muscles is essential to your overall health, but sometimes we overlook the role aerobic exercise plays in our wellness journeys. Cardio training keeps your heart and lungs in tip-top shape.
And if you’re not a runner, don’t worry. There are plenty of other ways to get your heart pumping.
Cardio and Heart Health
Healthy hearts rely on regular physical activity. A sedentary lifestyle is one of the greatest risk factors for cardiovascular disease. A lack of regular aerobic exercise is often linked to obesity, higher rates of certain cancers, greater risk for Type II Diabetes, and early death. In short, all the sitting is literally killing us.
Every year, an estimated 250,000 American deaths are attributed to a lack of physical activity. However, patients with heart disease or other cardiovascular problems can decrease their chance of death by getting active.
What’s the lesson here? Working out saves lives. And yes, aerobic activity plays a vital role in keeping your heart and lungs healthy.
Just as regular weight training strengthens the muscles on the surface of your body, aerobic activity strengthens your heart. With each workout, you’re increasing blood flow to your heart and lungs. Over time, your heart adapts to this change. Eventually, your heart will be able to beat stronger and more effectively, even when at rest.
While all exercise is good exercise, aerobic activity is what your heart needs most.
Your Weekly Aerobic Activity
The American Heart Association recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise. What defines “moderate” and “vigorous” will vary from person to person, but here’s the general rule:
- Moderate activity is any aerobic exercise that gets your heart pumping. You’ll be breathing more heavily than usual, but still able to carry on a conversation with your workout buddy, your dog, or yourself (c’mon, we’ve all been there).
- Vigorous cardio exercise is more intense. Your heart rate will be higher, your breathing heavier, and you’ll likely be sweating. During a vigorous workout, you won’t be able to carry on a conversation without quickly getting out of breath.
You can also determine the intensity of your workout by measuring your heart rate. Find your target heart rate by visiting the American Heart Association’s website. Of course, you should always consult with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program, particularly if you have underlying health issues.
The more aerobic activity you squeeze in each week, the healthier your heart will become.
Strength Training and Cardio
We often equate cardio with endless running, rowing, or biking. While those are all excellent aerobic exercises, there’s more to cardio than simply pounding the pavement.
The key to a good cardio workout is to elevate your heart rate and strengthen your heart and lungs. There are many ways to accomplish this goal, including high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and CrossFit workouts. (See? We told you that cardio isn’t just about running!)
Combining cardio and weight training is a great way to build muscle while increasing your aerobic endurance. One of the reasons CrossFit is so popular is its ability to impact multiple muscle groups simultaneously, all while giving you an intense aerobic workout in the process.
In fact, one study from the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine found that CrossFit improves cardiovascular health just as well as other aerobic activities. The high-intensity training not only helps participants gain muscle and burn fat but also increases heart rate and improves overall endurance. Think of it as a one-stop shop for getting your entire body in shape.
Cardio plays a vital role in your overall health. While running, swimming, and cycling are all great ways to incorporate aerobic activity, they aren’t the only ways. HIIT training and CrossFit workouts are also highly effective in strengthening the heart and lungs and increasing your aerobic endurance. So, if you’re the kind of person that only runs if something scary is chasing you, never fear. There are plenty of other ways to take care of your heart.
Now, go tackle that WOD. Your heart will thank you.