Cardiovascular workouts, as the name implies, are exercises designed to improve heart health by causing the heart rate to increase. However, a cardio exercise program produces significant improvements to health and fitness in practically every other area of the body and mind.

Among the benefits of regular cardio exercise are a lowering of LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels, an increase in “good” HDL cholesterol and a beneficial drop in blood pressure. According to the Mayo Clinic, 30 minutes of exercise every day can lead to a longer, healthier life due to improved lung strength and blood flow. ScienceDaily reports that cardio exercise can cause the heart to enlarge in a good way because it’s stronger (remember, the heart is a muscular organ). This beneficial enlargement of heart muscle through exercise is called hypertrophy.

A regular program of cardio exercise can stave off other diseases, ranging from diabetes to osteoporosis. As reported by Jonathan Myers, Ph.D, in the journal, “Circulation,” the lowered risk for diabetes is due to the increase in insulin sensitivity that results from regular exercise. And in addition to decreasing the risk of bone loss, cardio exercise may reduce back pain as a result of increased flexibility and muscle strength.

Of course, following a cardio program can help you lose weight and maintain your ideal body weight. While exercise alone won’t always lead to weight loss, combining regular workouts with proper diet will make losing weight easier, with greater long-term success in keeping the extra pounds off.

The Mayo Clinic notes the mental health benefits of cardio, as well. Exercise can increase serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a naturally occurring chemical that boosts mood. Low serotonin levels have been implicated as a cause of depression. Add to that the increase in self-esteem and body image you gain, and it’s obvious that following a cardio program is a true win-win situation.

To recap, benefits of cardio workouts include:

  • Weight loss
  • Stronger heart and lungs
  • Increased bone density
  • Reduced stress
  • Reduced risk of heart disease and some types of cancer
  • Temporary relief from depression and anxiety
  • Increased self-confidence
  • Better sleep
  • More energy

Fortunately, there are many different kinds of cardio exercises, so you can work in plenty of variety to keep you enthusiastic and engaged. Future Fitness offers several exceptional cardio classes led by the fitness industry’s leading instructors, so sign up and learn why a cardio program is the heart of an overall fitness program!