With the rise of resistance training and the growth of scientific evidence, low-intensity cardio has slowly become somewhat of an underdog in the fitness world. These days, most people (especially those interested in muscle growth, athleticism, and strength gain) frown upon the idea of doing low-intensity cardio and deem it ineffective and a waste of time.
But that’s no true. In fact, low-intensity cardio will always have a place in any good and well-structured fitness plan. Today, we’ll go over eight solid reasons why you should not ignore low-intensity cardio.
It Builds Endurance And Improves Cardiovascular Health
The most apparent benefit of low-intensity cardio is that it makes us more endurant, makes the heart more efficient, and improves our cardiovascular health.
And while these things might seem unimportant, remember that the heart is at the center of fitness and health. Making it more productive is one of the best ways to become fitter.
Plus, a healthy cardiovascular system is a significant predictor of longevity and good health. So, if you’re interested in living a healthy life and making better fitness progress, you should not discount the importance of cardio.
It Burns A Lot Of Calories, Which Makes It A Great Fat Loss Tool
The majority of people use low-intensity cardio as a fat loss tool because it burns a lot of calories. And while I don’t believe that doing cardio alone is a tremendous fat loss strategy, including it as part of a structured fitness plan is a great way to accelerate your fat loss.
You see, low-intensity cardio, when done for over half an hour, can burn a lot of calories. This, in turn, helps us create a caloric deficit much more easily and target our fat stores directly.
It Benefits Our Weight Training Performance
I know what you’re probably thinking: “Cardio? Why would I ever need it? I don’t care about becoming more endurant or running a 5K. I only want to build muscle and get stronger.”
I get it. At first glance, cardio seems useless in that pursuit because it doesn’t appear to improve our weight training efforts directly. And it’s true – it doesn’t help directly, but it benefits us nonetheless.
You see, endurance training is vital for our aerobic system, and while most people think that strength training is purely anaerobic (meaning, energy is produced in the absence of oxygen), that’s not true.
Our aerobic system produces the majority of energy the body needs for physical activity (be it lifting a heavy barbell, gardening at home, or running on the track) with the help of oxygen. So, having a developed aerobic system is vital for maximizing performance and recovery (both within each workout and between individual workouts).
In other words, if you want to maximize your weight room results, you need to hit the elliptical every so often.
It Improves Our Sleep
Are you having trouble sleeping? Rather than reaching for sleeping pills, try having a low-intensity cardio workout. Chances are, you’ll be able to fall asleep much more quickly and sleep much better.
Research conducted on folks with sleep issues has found that regular exercise (particularly low-intensity cardio) is a great way to treat insomnia and sleep better.
In one study, the subjects participated in a 16-week-long exercise program and then had to complete a questionnaire about their sleep. Each reported having longer and more restful sleep, as well as improved daytime alertness and energy levels.
It Elevates Our Mood And Happiness
If you’ve spent any time looking up fitness information, there is no doubt that you’ve heard of the famous ‘runner’s high,’ which is so common that you’ve likely experienced it yourself.
Runner’s high is the temporary feeling of euphoria following a workout where we feel happy, optimistic, and energetic for no apparent reason.
This is because the body releases endorphins during exercise – opioid hormones that generally serve to suppress pain but also bring about euphoria.
But exercise’s effects aren’t just temporary. Research seems to suggest that physically active folks are happier and more satisfied in general.
It Boosts Our Cognitive Function
Researchers are yet to understand the mechanisms behind this action fully, but it appears to be true across the board:
Folks who participate in low-intensity cardio regularly report having more mental clarity, an easier time with decision-making, improved memory, and more easily concentrate.
One possible explanation here is that, as we stated above, exercise improves our sleep, which itself is hugely vital for cognitive function.
Another factor may be exercise’s effect on mood. Elevating our mood through exercise could be a great way to clear our minds, boost our motivation, and be more productive in our lives.
It’s Much More Accessible Than Traditional Gym Training
Traditional strength training is excellent and it delivers many benefits. But, it’s also inconvenient as you either need to go to a gym or build one at home.
Low-intensity cardio, on the other hand, is much more accessible, and you don’t need any special equipment to do it – even a walk in the park near your home can be a good low-intensity workout.
Plus, you can do low-intensity workouts outdoors, especially during the warmer months, and we all know just how beneficial, refreshing, and relaxing it can be to breathe some fresh air while we exercise.
What’s more, with the creation of fantastic fitness equipment like a mini under-desk elliptical, we can now get a lot of low-intensity workouts while working at the office or while chilling at home.
It Strengthens Our Immune System
While most of us are quick to reach for immune system-boosting pills and powders, it appears that regular low-intensity cardio does a great job of improving our immunity.
Numerous studies have found that folks who exercise regularly have a stronger immune system, and, as a result, get sick less often and, when they do catch something like the common cold, recover much more quickly.
This is because low-intensity cardio appears to increase the presence of specific antibodies called immunoglobulins, which are used by the immune system to neutralize various pathogens such as viruses and bacteria.