Much of our time in the weight room is spent working on our muscles. And while we look good and feel good with our 6-pack abs, toned arms and shapely legs, the most important muscle to exercise is the heart.
Weight training is important for maintaining and increasing muscle mass, and it's a critical ingredient for a high metabolism and bodyweight management. So strength training 3 times per week is still a great goal.
Training your heart and your entire cardiovascular system with high quality "cardio" exercise provides a long list of benefits, including:
- Weight loss. Cardio exercise done properly burns a high number of calories.
- Stronger heart and lungs. Exercise makes muscles stronger, and challenging the heart and lungs works on this same principle.
- Increased bone density. Most cardio exercises are weight-bearing exercises. Examples include running, stair climbing. Improving or at least maintaining bone density is important as we grow older.
- Reduced stress. We always feel better after a hard workout, don't we? The problems of the day just seem to melt away.
- Reduced risk of heart disease.
- Temporary relief from depression and anxiety. Similar to #4, quality cardio exercise cleanses us and the post-workout endorphins help our mood.
- More confidence about how you feel and how you look.
- Better quality sleep. Exercise fatigues us and reduces stress, allowing a good night's sleep.
- More energy. Have you noticed that people who never exercise are always tired? And similarly, people who work out consistently generally are more energetic and upbeat?
- Setting a good example for your kids to stay active as they get older. We are role models for our kids (and for those around us). If our kids see us working our regularly, eating well and living a healthy lifestyle, the odds are that they will follow our footsteps.
Most people are concerned about their weight. Even people who train regularly must be aware of calories in versus calories out. Our society is geared toward inactivity and poor food choices, so weight and weight loss are high on the list of exercise priorities for many people.
However, weight loss is only one of several benefits provided by a quality cardio workout. It's every bit as important as weight training, so make time in your weekly schedule for cardio training.
My next post will explore various options for cardio training and will help define the phrase "quality cardio." Until then, train hard, train often and have fun!
10/12/2010 at 8:18 PM