Why Running For Cardio Training Really Does Matter
In a world of gym training and fitness classes, here’s why good old running really matters for your health.
Every decade brings a new focus when it comes to exercise, nutrition, and health. Running had a heyday in the 80s. But what about now?
Runners should give themselves a big pat on the back for choosing this form of exercise. Even though the fitness industry might be full of gym workouts, weight lifting, and strength training – running really is important. Here’s the low down on what you’re doing for your health when you choose to run.
What Is “Cardio”?
Fitness folk seem to separate exercise into strength/resistance training, and cardio. Cardiovascular means heart (cardio) and blood vessels (vascular). So whilst cardio might not focus so much on maintaining muscle mass, it’s doing really important work for the health of your heart and vascular system, helping you move oxygen around your body.
How Exactly Does Cardio Help Your Body?
Cardiovascular training – like running, jogging, and sprinting – has a massive impact on lots of important functions in the body. This includes how many mitochondria we have within our cells. Mitochondria create energy, so the more cardio you do, the more mitochondria you’ll have, the more energy your cells will produce, and the higher your metabolism will be.
A better cardiovascular capacity helps you recover well from all kinds of other exercise and activity. This is generally what people mean when they say someone is “fit”, or “athletic”. Just know that every time you go for a run, you really are getting “fitter” – but in lots of ways that only your body really understands.
Cardio training helps you burn fat. Yes, diet and nutrition are at the basis of a healthy body composition. But your body will struggle to burn fat efficiently if your blood and muscles can’t pump and hold blood effectively. Cardio training like running helps it pump more oxygen through your blood vessels to use more fat for energy – al the time, not just during exercise.
There are lots of other reasons to love running for cardio, too. It improves your emotional health, mental state, and psychological wellbeing (ever noticed how even a short run makes you feel somehow calmer, less stressed, and better able to cope with life?) Running for cardio exercise improves brain function, helping you be more alert and focused, creative, and sharp. It keeps your heart healthy and actually increases the size of your heart muscle to healthy levels. You’ll take in more oxygen with every breath (even when you’re not actually running). Your resting heart rate will be lower, which is linked with a number of positive health markers. Your heart will pump more blood per beat, and deliver more oxygen to your muscles. And your bone density will be boosted, which is really important for all women.
Lots of this is relevant to any kind of cardiovascular exercise. But there a significant reasons to choose running over anything else that raises your heart rate.
Why Is Running So Important?
It’s simply not true that any activity that raises your pulse can be counted as cardio. So high-rep weight training, or even body weight circuits, doesn’t deliver the same benefits as running. Running for cardio raises your heart rate but doesn’t make all your muscles work hard (like high-rep strength training does). So your heart can do its job and pump blood around your body. During cardio training, your systolic blood pressure increases and your diastolic pressure stays the same. This is great news for a healthy heart both now and in your future.
All kinds of exercise and activity is healthy, and an active lifestyle should ideally combine a little of everything: walking, cardio, strength training, stretching. But running for cardio is one of the best things you can do for your heart, your blood vessels, and your body composition. Combine a good step target (10,000+) with a few runs a week, and add in some sprints or hills when you can. Your body will thank you.