Benefits of Cardiovascular Fitness

Young People Spinning in the gymWould you fill a prescription for something that would help prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis, depression, dementia, and even some cancers? If this same prescription could also improve your sleep, give you more energy, make you lose weight and help you feel younger, would you take it daily? Well that “drug” does exist. It is in the form of daily exercise and I recommend you start now.

The number one thing you can do to gain all the benefits mentioned above is cardiovascular fitness on a regular basis. That’s aerobic exercise. It’s exercise that trains the heart and lungs. It’s activity that elevates the heart and breathing rates beyond normal. It makes you sweat. So walk briskly, run, cycle, swim, even dance at a pace quick enough to make you breath a little quicker. Participating four or five times a week is good but daily is better. Cardiovascular fitness suggests health benefits for the heart. That is true. You decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke by training aerobically. Your heart becomes stronger. Your resting heart rate is lowered. Your body produces more blood. This increased blood volume allows more oxygen to get to areas that need it. Hence increased energy. Your body also develops more pathways for blood to take. This is important if you do develop blocked arteries due to poor diet or genetic reasons, your body will now have alternate routes for blood to take. This means that a fatal heart attack may be avoided. I personally know two men who were avid cyclists yet had heart attacks. They were both told had they not been aerobically fit due to the cycling the heart attack would have been much more serious and possibly fatal.

Increased circulation through aerobic activity is what also helps prevent dementia. More oxygen going to the brain is a good thing. Studies show that people who are aerobically fit show much less brain aging. Dancing is good for the brain in that it makes you commit steps or patterns to memory. Aerobic activity also helps prevent and manage diabetes. All food we eat, not just the sugary ones, is broken down to glucose to be used for everything we do. We need glucose to think, breathe and to exercise. If we overeat the excess blood sugar is stored as fat to be used later. If we don’t exercise, the stored glucose doesn’t get used. If we eat again we produce more glucose. Not only is there excess blood sugar,  there is now more stored fat. The body eventually can’t keep up with trying to lower sugar levels. This is when type II diabetes develops. This can totally be avoided by not over eating and by exercising regularly. 

If you participate in activities that are weight bearing such as walking or running, you will also benefit your bones. These activities improve bone density. Cycling and swimming do not however so if these are your activities of choice, add weight training to your schedule for bone health. Studies have also shown that women who exercise aerobically have a reduced risk of breast cancer. Colon cancer risk is lowered with aerobic exercise as well. It keeps you “regular’. Exercise also produces endorphins, or “feel good” hormones, therefore helping to keep depression away. With all these benefits to be gained by exercising regularly, why isn’t everyone doing it?!  


Holly Vanderzwet, B.P.E.