Is cardio really that important?
Between the Rowing & Cycling Championships starting this weekend and the Ironman competition taking place in Wales last weekend, it’s hard not to feel a little bit left out. Rowing, cycling & running are some of the most accessible forms of exercise when it comes to equipment and they’re all extremely good for you in very different way. Exercise benefits your brain, joints & muscle health no matter what form it comes in. From dancing in the kitchen to climbing a mountain; raising your heart rate on a regular basis has been proven to lower blood pressure, improve your sleep & even support your mental health. Let’s treat this like our triathlon of sorts; here’s why either rowing, cycling or running should fit into your regular workout in some way.
Like most exercise does, rowing helps tone your muscles, increase your energy & burn calories. On average, you can burn around 600 calories in one hour when using a rowing machine though this is dependent on your weight and the intensity of your workout. Rowing or using a rowing machine has a unique ability to work 85% of your muscles at once. Your shoulders, trapezii & lats are being worked in your upper body, helping strengthen your back and reducing any pain you may feel. You may also see an increase in your endurance, stamina & metabolism. As you need to spend less time on a rower to see the same results, this is a great exercise to do if you’re looking for quicker results. You can see the same results on a treadmill or bike, though it will take longer and they won’t work your upper body.
This exercise is high on intensity but low on impact making it great for anyone struggling with aches and pains.
Cycling is another exercise which is gentle on your joints. This low impact workout is often used in rehab for joint related issues and just like rowing, you can also burn a lot of calories in a short period of time. A 30 minute cycle on a stationary bike can see you burn between 252 – 278 calories (again this is dependent on your weight and the intensity of your workout). Using a stationary bikes means there is no coasting; if you stop, the bike stops meaning you’re going to build up some endurance. As you’re using your legs and lower back to keep the bike going, you will see an increase in your endurance and your glutes, hamstrings, quads & calves will all become stronger too. Whilst you’re not working your core, you may also see an improvement in your balance as you are having to keep your self stable while working out.
Treadmills and running have to be the easiest go to when it comes to a cardio work out. A 4 mile walk/jog can see you burn between 400-600 calories which will aid your weight loss journey and you will also see an improvement in your sleep quality. By depleting your energy levels, you stimulate the therapeutic process that happens during your sleep, giving you a better nights sleep. Using a treadmill has lesser impact on your joints compared to running on an outdoor surface meaning you are less likely to see ankle, knee & back problems. You can avoid environmental stresses and have more consistency in your run when using a treadmill; this means you will see an increase in your step frequency and as your SPM (steps per minute) increase you’ll reduce the load on your joints & bones by creating shorter, smoother strides.
Overall, yes, cardio really is that important. Any form of regular exercise reduces the risk of heart diseases and other issues. By keeping your heat rate higher and your heart muscles strong, it will help your body produce insulin preventing diabetes. Walking for 2.5 hours a week, every week for 3 years has been scientifically proven to reduces an individuals risk of diabetes by up to 58%. Not only will you be helping your heart, but you will also see an improvement in your brain health. There will be reduced feelings of stress, anxiety & depression and you’ll find yourself having a better memory and high attention span. A ‘runner’s high’ isn’t actually specific to runners; exercise helps your brain release endorphins, creating that euphoric feeling known as the ‘runner’s high’.
If you’re looking to train for a specific competition or simply loose a few pounds, cardio is going to be the quickest way for you to do so. You can set most, if not all, machines to your specifics, making your workout as hard (or as easy) as you need it to be.
Using rowing machines, indoor bikes & treadmills makes your workout easy, accessible & if you’re lucky enough to have them in your own home, it’s also private.