Cardiovascular Training (aka “cardio” or “endurance training) refers to positively stressing the heart muscle by elevating our heart rate through prolonged, repetitive activity. This form of activity yields a long list of benefits ranging from improved blood flow throughout the body, lowered cholesterol, decreased chances of certain cancers (breast, colon), increased lung capacity, and weight loss. Most professional organizations recommend performing this activity for at least 3 or more days out of the week for at least 20-30 minutes of a moderate intensity in order to receive the best benefits.
Understanding that cardio does not have to come in the form of treadmill running or cycling is a key element. Recreational sports, golfing, walking, and even long-term yard work can all yield similar benefits if performed for a longer period of time. Many people have heard of the aforementioned pros of cardio but forget about the psychological effects. Especially for those whom wish to lose weight but are struggling to stay motivated and start a weight-loss program, it is important to note that cardiovascular training can improve a person’s general well-being, mood, anxiety levels, and self-concept.
A few research studies have been done over recent years which provide evidence of the psychological benefits of CV training. A 15-week study was performed on 35 overweight or mildly obese women to test the effects of brisk walking for 45 minutes, 5 days/week on certain psychological aspects. The results of this study showed a significant improvement in general well-being, energy levels, and lowered anxiety in the group that performed cardiovascular training versus the group that performed no exercise at all (Cramer, et al).
Another study that was conducted in recent years involving the effects of physical activity on weight loss and mental health received results which pointed to physical activity being the reason for mental health improvements and elevations in mood, not specifically cardiovascular fitness. Not only did these subjects lose a significant percentage of body fat due to various forms of physical activity, but their mental health improved as well (Thirlaway, et al).
Therefore, the take home message would be that it may not necessarily matter how fit someone is in order to lose weight and improve their mental state of being. Regardless of the success you are having with your weight-loss regimen, performing cardio or any form of physical activity has been linked to an improved state of mind. With a healthier mental state/mood, we as humans are more likely to continue to be active, and the more activity we perform the better chances of shedding pounds.
By Anthony Locast
Cramer, Sylvia R., David C. Nieman, and Jerry W. Lee. “The effects of moderate exercise training on psychological well-being and mood state in women.” Journal of Psychosomatic Research 35.4 (1991): 437-449.
Thirlaway, Kathryn, and David Benton. “Participation in physical activity and cardiovascular fitness have different effects on mental health and mood.” Journal of psychosomatic research 36.7 (1992): 657-665.