Many people have asked me which form of exercise is the most beneficial to overall health. Different forms of exercise will benefit the body in different ways. By performing different types of exercise, you can capitalize on the full range of benefits that each exercise has to offer.
In recent times, people have been focusing on high intensity exercise’s ability to burn fat at a faster rate than steady-state cardio. Although this is true, normal cardio has many benefits of its own – even for people who want to build muscle.
Steady-state cardiovascular exercise is also referred to as traditional cardio. This is the form of exercise that you can do at a medium-to-low level of intensity for relatively longer periods of time. Examples include running, swimming, cycling, dancing and rowing.
How cardio vascular exercise contributes to better health
Cardio stimulates fat metabolism
Standard cardio is great for teaching the body to sustain a higher level of energy output for a longer period of time. This trains it to use fat cells as its primary source of fuel instead of sugar. Oxygen and fat tissue are used as fuel to do an activity that lasts for longer than a few minutes.
Steady-state cardio is easier to maintain than higher intensities
Although exercises that are done at higher intensities for shorter periods of time may burn fat faster than normal cardio, they tend to place a greater physical stress on the body. If done right, high intensity training places so much stress on your body that it is forced to adapt in a short period of time. Since it places so much stress on the body, it should not be done too regularly. Your body needs time to rest and recover. Normal cardio, on the other hand, can be done more regularly because it elevates the heart rate and stimulates fat reduction without inducing as much physical stress.
Increased cardiovascular health
Hence the name, cardio-vascular exercises strengthen the parts of the body that use oxygen and fat for energy. This includes the heart, lungs, blood vessels and muscles. Cardiovascular exercise, therefore, helps in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and stroke.
Activation of slow-twitch muscle fibres
Muscle is comprised of two different types of muscle fibers: Fast-twitch and slow twitch. Fast-twitch muscle fibers are used to perform tasks that require a lot of effort, like picking up a large weight. They can exert more force, but can’t sustain it for very long. Slow-twitch muscle fibers are used for general activities that don’t require as much effort. They exert a lot less force, but they can do it for a much longer period of time. Most day-to-day movement uses slow-twitch muscle fibers. It is possible to have strong fast twitch muscle fibers and weak slow twitch fibers. The opposite is also true.
Cardio-vascular exercise focuses on slow-twitch muscle fibers. It strengthens them and stimulates them to be able to do more while requiring less energy.
Cardio is a mentally relaxing type of exercise. This makes it a great form of mental escape from the typical stresses of work or relationships. If you lead a fast-paced life, taking time to slow down and focus on low-intensity physical movement will have significant mental benefits.
Traditional cardio has the highest chance of giving you a ‘runner’s high’ during exercise. Runner’s high is a term used to describe that feeling of elevated positivity and mindfulness when doing an exercise. In psychological terms, it is referred to as ‘flow’. When you feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and empowerment that makes you feel like you can continue doing a certain form of exercise without stopping, you are experiencing runner’s high.
This happens because the release of endorphins and the brain’s ability to focus on a single task without distraction puts you into a state of bliss. Runner’s high is beneficial for increasing overall positivity in life, decreasing depression and giving you a sense of guilt-free enjoyment.
Increased adaptability when added to different forms of exercise
The reason why we see positive changes after doing exercise is because our bodies adapt to the stimulus. If you do the same type of exercise over and over, your body adapts to the point where it is no longer stimulated to improve itself. This is known as a plateau.
By doing different forms of exercise, your body has more than one type of stimulus. This increases the rate at which it adapts, as well as the amount of adaption that takes place until it hits a plateau.
Increased blood flow
All forms of exercise increase blood flow. Cardio causes the body to pump more blood through its system so that muscles can get the oxygen and nutrients that they need to perform the task.
This makes steady-state cardio a great way to increase recovery from other types of exercise. High intensity exercises and resistance training creates positive damage within muscle tissue. When the muscle starts to recover from this damage, it makes improvements so that it does not experience the same type of damage. Muscles need nutrients to make these changes. Blood flow is needed to deliver those nutrients. By increasing blood flow, you increase the amount of nutrients that a muscle will receive. This is why increasing blood flow speeds up muscle recovery. Doing low-intensity cardio while you are resting from another type of exercise can therefore reduce recovery time.
For the above reasons, adding steady-state cardio to your current exercise plan will increase the amount of health benefits that you get from exercise. Variety is always better than doing the same thing over and over again. Remember that your body also needs periods of complete rest to recover optimally.