As the years have rolled by, our culture, society and our lifestyle has undergone a gradual but drastic change. I don't really know whether or not to thank technology for if it has made our lives easier and more comfortable, it has also not made us lazier and more lethargic. Fitness has become a central concern in our lives, and unfortunately, the lack of it is something that we are constantly grappling with. When I sit and look back at how I led my life as a child in a small town nestled somewhere deep in the heart of Uttar Pradesh, I realize that my parents were far more active as compared to many city-parents today. I agree we are living an urban life where most of us end up traveling over 30 km a day. In this rushed life, who has time for fitness?
Growing up, I went for my basketball and dance classes and cycled my way to and from school every day. As a family, we would go to community parks where I would just play, run, fall, get hurt and get back to playing again and my parents would socialize and chat with people. Those were simpler days; you weren't scared of inhaling deadly bacteria in the air you breathe. In my family, we always did our own work. Everyone washed their cutlery, my mum did the laundry and my father was in-charge of all the ironing. My mum broomed while my dad swept and dusted around - every single day. Despite our house being on the third floor, my father never took an elevator and that's why even now, I never take elevators and skip accelerators whenever possible.
I shared this story to make a very valid and simple point - our ancestors were healthier and managed fine when it came to maintaining a healthy body weight. According to a recent study conducted by experts at York University, Toronto, Canada, older people had it easier earlier-- they could eat more and exercise less, and still avoid obesity. "We observe that for a given amount of self-reported food intake, people will be about 10 percent heavier in 2008 than in 1971," noted Ruth Brown, York University. "Ultimately, maintaining a healthy body weight is now more challenging than ever," Kuk said.
Staying healthy is by far one of the biggest challenges these days, with our lives shrinking indoors, we are falling prey to sedentary lifestyle. Studies after studies warn us against the debilitating effects of prolonged sitting and sedentary lifestyle. What do we do in turn? We make minuscule changes and expect miraculous results. The need of the hour is to make a commitment to ourselves, to make realistic fitness goals and achieve them. We won't begin by giving a lecture about joining a gym or taking up a hardcore, extensive fitness regime. We will share our insights on basic fitness and how you can achieve it the simplest way - take up cardio.
Why is Cardio important?
Putting it in simpler words, you need your heart to race and beat faster to make it exercise. Initially it will help your body lose all the glycogen stored in your liver (glucose/energy) followed by fat. For those who just can't drag themselves off that couch, a range of cardio activities can not only help you take a step towards better health but can also engage and interest you to take up something more challenging. Most fitness experts are of the opinion that cardio sessions should always go hand-in-hand with some weight or strength training to achieve best result, but to begin with just a twenty minute brisk walk or light jogging will pave way for building stamina, prepping you for high intensity training.
Beyond Walking and Jogging: The New Age Cardio
The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least five days a week: a total of 150 minutes.
At least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least thrice a week: 75 minutes
You can do a combination of both.
The least you can do is to walk whenever and wherever possible, brisk walk, jog or even run. If you join a gym your fitness regime will automatically constitute a healthy combination of cardio plus strength training to fortify muscles and build muscles in place of lost fat.
The institute also recommends strength training for additional health benefits.
"Cardiovascular exercise is any type of exercise that increases the work of the heart and lungs," Tommy Boone, PhD, a founding member of the American Society of Exercise Physiologists quoted from an online health portal. "Walking, jogging, and running are common forms of cardiovascular, or aerobic, exercise," noted Boone as quoted on WebMD.
Cardio is simple and not complex like strength training where you have a set of exercises that target certain areas of your body. "Increasing your heart rate to burn energy and fat is the goal of any cardio activity. Anything that helps you achieve that will qualify as a cardio activity. However, one should keep in mind that you only start burning calories after twenty minutes of prolonged cardio activity," noted Dr. Rupali Datta, Chief Clinical Nutritionist at Fortis-Escorts Hospital.
Having said that, you have a sea of activities to choose from other than running, skipping, jogging or brisk walking. Make your choice from swimming, dancing or go for fun group activities like zumba, aerobics, kick-boxing, cycling, hiking, rowing or for that matter, any sport of your choice - essentially, whatever makes you sweat and your heart beat faster.
Benefits of Cardio: For Better Health
When your heart beats faster it facilitates rapid blood circulation. Not only does your heart get some serious exercise it enables optimum oxygen supply to each and every nook of your body. It prevents risks of cardiovascular and associated ailments. Other than this some other noticeable benefits of regular cardio activity would include the following:
- Helps in building muscle mass and losing weight
- Helps in building stamina
- Prevents cholesterol and high blood pressure
- Helps in maintaining bone density and age-related bone-mineral loss
- Aids in preventing bone related ailments like osteoporosis
- Helps in better supply of oxygen to brain, thereby improving brain function
- Improves mood, fights stress and help alleviate depression
- Helps in improving sleep quality
- Improves concentration
- Helps build metabolism, resistance, recovery ability
- Is beneficial for diabetics by equipping muscles with an ability to make better and efficient use of blood glucose.
Now that you know the myriad benefits of cardio and what it can do to your overall health, you must make minor modifications in your daily routine. Start by a 10 minute brisk walk, follow it religiously for a week, keep adding on to it every week - jog, run and once you feel your stamina building up, raise the bar and go for something more exciting and challenging.
Tip: Your fitness level and weight-loss is proportional to your endurance, stamina & perseverance. Believe me, this comes from a person who never even went for a jog in her childhood and now completes her 5k run in under 30 minutes. Be patient, be at it!