Yes, hello, I’m here in defence of cardio.
Because I know it’s not the it girl of the 21st century.
I know that title is taken by weights.
And resistance training is DEFINITELY important too.
But cardio has a reputation of being this boring thing that we dread doing and it’s bad for fat loss and yada, yada, yada.
Well, it’s simply NOT true.
Cardio is GOOD for us. It’s not just good for weight control, it’s good for our hearts and our lungs and our circulation and our mood and our lymph nodes and our immune systems.
It’s just so important for so many reasons.
Like, we need a whole post to talk about this in more detail.
I know it has a reputation of being blah and stale and dreadful.
I mean, it should feel like work – but when you do it right, it shouldn’t feel boring at all.
If it’s boring, you’re doing it wrong.
If running feels boring, or you can’t because of your boobs or your knees, that’s okay. There are SO many other ways to get your heart rate up like swimming, aerobics, kickboxing, hiking, tennis, hip hop dancing, and bike riding.
Find a form you love (you might have to kiss a few frogs til you find it), but don’t turn your back on cardio completely. Because, aside from its many health benefits, cardio is great for your mental health too.
It makes you feel good, it gives you energy, and overall, cardio makes you a happier person. Here’s how.
Cardio releases chemicals in your body that make you happier
Like, you actually feel happier on a chemical level.
Cardio boosts confidence
Every time you run further than you thought you could, or make it another 5 minutes through the workout video, or finally get your serve right at tennis, it boosts your confidence and self esteem.
As your ability and interest in the sport grows, so does your confidence around it. The more confident you are, the happier you tend to feel overall.
Cardio is kind of addictive
As someone who used to run, let me tell you … that “runner’s high” is a real thing.
You think you can’t keep going any further, and you push through it and then a few minutes later you get this overwhelming sense of euphoria.
Your muscles stop aching. You stop feeling tired. You feel almost invincible.
Studies have even shown that a runner’s high can feel similar to a drug high.
And what’s great is that while that initial euphoria wears off, the feeling of happiness and energy seems to last throughout the rest of your day.
This that runners high comes from endorphins, which trigger the reward centre of your brain.
The best part is – with time you start to look forward to your workouts because you’re chasing that endorphin rush, making exercise motivation a lot easier to come by.
Now, don’t think you suddenly have to take up running to experience the “runner’s high” – staying in your aerobic zone during other forms of activity will also produce the same experience.
Cardio increases focus and productivity
Don’t you just feel so much better and happier when you’ve gotten more done in your day?
Cardio will help with that!
Studies have shown that it increases your ability for self control, focus and impulse control, so you’re less likely to get distracted by your Facebook news feed, and more likely to stay focused and productive for the rest of the day.
It’s one reason I like to do cardio in the morning.
I don’t know what it is about me, but I have the attention span of a hummingbird and can’t seem to focus long enough on one thing to get it done.
I’ll be halfway through a task and then a thought pops into my head and then another one and before long I’m randomly Googling, falling down social media rabbit holes, or just losing gaps of time.
But when I exercise in the morning, this doesn’t happen as often. I can stay focused and alert without feeling anxious or getting carried away in my thoughts.
Now I know this is because cardio releases GABA, which is a neurotransmitter that calms anxiety and boosts impulse control.
I know there’s Pomodoro and diaries and to do lists and all that other stuff, but if I could pinpoint one thing that REALLY helps me focus, it’s exercise first thing in the morning.
Cardio makes you more energised
Don’t you just feel happier when you have an abundance of energy for the day?
Cardio gives you WAY more energy than coffee – and it’s a longer lasting effect too.
Moderate exercise literally generates energy in your body, stimulating your body to make mitochondria, which are like itty bitty power plants in your cells.
I know sometimes when you’re tired, or you just woke up feeling groggy, jumping around a bunch is the last thing you feel like, but it may just be the thing that helps you most.
Once you get up and get going, you’ll start noticing the difference a few minutes in, but the biggest shift comes after the workout, when you feel bright eyed, bushy tailed and ready to take on the world.
Oh and P.S. – moderate cardio also helps you sleep better – which will definitely boost your energy levels (and aren’t we all happier after a good night’s sleep?)
Cardio has many benefits for your body and it also has incredible benefits for your mood, too. In fact, regular cardio can make you a happier person!
So don’t write cardio off! Find a form you love and perform it at a moderate intensity, most days of the week. It won’t just make you healthier – it’ll make you a whole lot happier too!