No matter how you slice it, cardio is hard work.
A proper cardio workout pushes your heart and lungs to the limit, leaving you sweating and gasping to catch your breath.
It’s an extremely vital element of your overall fitness, but it’s one of the most challenging and, let’s face it, one of the most “skipped” workouts around.
If you’re looking for a little cardio motivation to get you going before your next run or elliptical session, you’re in the right place.
Here are some killer cardio benefits that should you get you excited to put in the work, and some motivational cardio quotes to get you pumped up right before your next workout.
What is Cardiovascular Training?
Cardiovascular fitness relates to the ability of the heart and lungs to supply oxygen rich blood to the muscle tissues of the body and to use oxygen to produce energy.
Cardio training, then, is any exercise that challenges and builds your body’s ability to do so. Most commonly, people train cardio by running, or using a cardio machine like the treadmill or elliptical.
But anything that gets your heart and lungs pumping will do the trick.
The majority of doctors and trainers agree that cardiovascular fitness is the most important aspect of fitness.
That’s because our muscles rely upon an efficient cardiovascular system to supply the oxygen they need to function.
It also needs to be able to efficiently remove waste products from the muscle cells.
So not only does a good cardio regimen build your endurance and boost your energy levels, it helps your body function better on a cellular level.
8 Undeniable Benefits of Cardio Training
So you know you “should” do your cardio, but what are you really getting out of it?
These 8 amazing benefits should inspire you to put more effort into your cardio workouts rather than simply going through the motions.
1. Cardio Burns Body Fat
Cardio exercise is the most effective way to burn calories.
Depending on the type of cardio that you do, you will be able to burn as many as 1,000 calories per hour. The best form of exercise to perform to burn calories is High Intensity Interval Training, which involves repeated rounds of intense sprint type work followed by shorter rest periods.
A huge benefit of HIIT cardio is that it brings on what is known as the enhanced post exercise oxygen consumption effect (EPOC).
This causes an extra demand for oxygen for up to 24 hours after the workout which increases the metabolism during that time.
An example of an effective HIIT fat burning routine may look like this . . .
Get on a treadmill and start with a two minute warm up. From the 1:30 mark start increasing the speed until you are sprinting at the 2 minute mark.
Continue to sprint at full pace for 20 seconds. Now kick your legs out to the sides of the running belt for a 10 second recovery. Repeat this sequence for eight rounds.
Finish off with a 2 minute warm down.
Important note: To actually lose fat, you’ll have to eat right and put your body in a caloric deficit!
2. Cardio Improves Heart & Lung Health
Cardiovascular exercise is the best way to strengthen the heart so that it can more efficiently do its job of pumping blood around the body.
As a result, it is recommended by the American Heart Association for those who are at risk of developing heart disease. Other cardiovascular benefits of cardio include:
- reducing bad LDL cholesterol levels
- increasing good HDL levels
Cardio work also reduces blood pressure.
For the best results for your cardiovascular system, shoot for 35-45 minutes of cardio per day — as often as is feasible.
3. Cardio Can Help You Live Longer
There is evidence that cardiovascular exercise will increase your lifespan.
In fact, one study suggested that every hour of cardio that you do will extend your life by two to seven hours.
That is a 100 percent return on your time investment!
But cardio will do more than add years to your life; it will also add life to your years by improving your overall health so that you can live a long and productive life.
4. Cardio Helps to Fight Depression
Cardiovascular exercise has been referred to as ‘nature’s tranquilizer.’
A number of studies have shown that engaging in just 15-30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per day can dramatically improve the mood of people suffering from depression.
Cardio exercise is able to promote a positive mood by releasing feel good hormones.
In fact, elevated mood and energy levels are one of the main results you’ll see after just a month of HIIT cardio.
5. Cardio Helps to Regulate Insulin Levels
High insulin levels can result in insulin sensitivity, which in turn can lead to weight gain and obesity.
Exercise is one of the best ways to control insulin levels and help to keep blood sugar levels low.
Both aerobic (cardio) and anaerobic exercise have been shown to be effective at controlling insulin levels.
6. Cardio Strengthens the Immune System
A recent study showed significant improvement in immune system functioning as a result of cardiovascular exercise.
This has been pinpointed by researchers as resulting from an increase in a type of antibody that is carried in the blood called immunoglobulins.
In other words, slogging through those difficult cardio workouts could help you get sick less.
7. Cardio Improves Cognitive Functioning
Cardiovascular exercise has been shown to make the brain work better!
Humans begin to lose brain tissue from the age of 30 onwards — yeah, it’s a bummer. Yet, cardio exercise has been shown to slow down this degenerative process.
People who exercise regularly have been shown to have sharper memories, faster reaction times and better levels of concentration than non exercisers.
8. Cardio Improves Sleep Quality
Lack of quality sleep has been associated with a whole host of negative effects on both the mind and body.
These include weight gain, impaired memory and loss of coordination.
People who exercise regularly get to sleep more easily and tend to be much deeper sleepers than non exercisers.
Cardio Quotes to Get You Motivated
Alright, now that the science is out of the way, let’s take a look at some motivational cardio quotes to get you excited for your next run, jog, or spin class.
The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will involve the patient in the proper use of food, fresh air, and exercise.
Do cardio throughout the year at least three days a week for at least 30-40 minutes, whether it be first thing in the morning on an empty stomach or after a post-workout protein shake.
Cardio won’t kill your gains as much as you think; you’ll see how much muscle you really have.
I do close to 30 minutes in cardio at a very high rate. I raise the level of intensity. I do a level 18 on the elliptical at four miles an hour for 20 minutes.
That’s 360 calories. I want to see someone else try that. The resistance factor at 18 is brutal. No one goes to 20.
My main exercise is cardio. The treadmill is fine, but running outdoors gives me the best results.
I try to log 6 to 8 miles a week. I could be in the worst mood, but when I do my cardio, I feel much, much better.
Mary J. Blige
A cardio workout increases blood flow and acts as a filter system. It brings nutrients like oxygen, protein, and iron to the muscles that you’ve been training and helps them recover faster.
4 Great Cardio Options to Keep You Motivated
There’s no limit to the different ways you can achieve a good cardio workout.
Some of them you might find grueling and boring — which can lead to skipped workouts.
Others may motivate you to keep going because they’re more fun, dynamic, or just feel better for your body.
Cycling (Stationary Bikes & Spin Class)
Cycling is an excellent form of cardio exercise as it provides a great workout for the heart and lungs without putting undue stress on the joints of the lower body.
It also builds and strengthens the muscles of the lower body.
A strenuous cycling workout can burn as many as 900 calories per hour, which also makes it an effective fat burning exercise.
Another huge benefit of cycling is that it is easily accessible.
Not everyone is comfortable running on a treadmill or using a skipping rope, but nearly everyone knows how to ride a bike! Cycling can be done either indoors or outdoors.
Getting your exercise outdoors offers the advantages of variety and fresh air. On the other hand, exercising on an exercise bike means you can get your workout in regardless of the weather.
Spin class, in particular, can be extremely motivating. They’re usually a lot of fun, with dark lighting and blasting music, and have a great community vibe where you can get to know fellow riders.
(Check out the results you can get from spin class and tips for your first spin class here.)
Of all the cardio exercise options, rowing does one of the best jobs in working both the aerobic and anaerobic systems.
It also works the muscles of the entire body, including the upper body.
Each rowing stroke involves around 65 percent effort from the muscles of the lower body, with 35 percent coming from the upper body muscles.
Rowing provides an excellent workout for the cardiovascular system.
It provides conditioning for the heart and lungs without the stress of the constant jolting that comes with running or using a stair climbing machine.
Rowing is not a natural action for most people. So, compared to cycling, it requires quite a learning curve.
As a result, it might not be the best choice for people who have not exercised before. If you develop bad form habits on the rowing machine, you open yourself up to potential lower back problems.
If you struggle to stay motivated on the treadmill or elliptical, you might find rowing more of a fun challenge. It engages a lot more upper body and can get you a pretty chiseled physique almost all on its own.
Check out the pros and cons of rowing machines and what results you can expect from rowing workouts.
Battle Ropes are a relatively recent addition to the matrix of cardio training options.
Battle rope workouts are performed by looping a rope around a stationary object and creating a series of waves with the upper body for between 10 and 30 seconds.
Battle ropes is a form of cardio that uniquely also targets the muscles of the upper body. It will specifically work the shoulders, forearms, upper and mid back, and core.
Battle rope training is also an excellent calorie burner, making it an effective alternative exercise for fat loss.
Battle Rope beginners should start with 15-30 seconds of wave movement followed by a rest of double the exercise time. This should be repeated for 6-10 rounds.
Battle ropes are incredibly challenging, but they’re a unique workout most people haven’t done before. Trying new things is a great way to stay motivated to do your cardio!
Not to mention, battle rope workouts are so exhausting they don’t take long.
Barbell Complexes provide the ultimate amalgamation of cardio and weight training.
This involves setting up a circuit of barbell exercises that are performed for 5-8 reps each with no rest between them for a set number of rounds.
This is a great form of metabolic conditioning that will torch body fat while also building muscle and increasing strength levels.
A typical Barbell Complex might look like this:
- Barbell Squats – 5-8 reps
- Squat to Press – 5-8 reps
- Good Morning – 5-8 reps
- Power Cleans – 5-8 reps
- Bent Over Rows – 5-8 reps
- Deadlifts – 5-8 reps
If you struggle with traditional cardio like running or even HIIT workouts, you may prefer a strength-based approach to cardio. Working with weights may suit you better and keep you coming back for more and more workouts.
Cardiovascular exercise is not something to be thrown in after your weight training workout.
It is, actually the most important type of training you could possibly be doing!
After all, what is the point of developing an impressive pair of biceps if your heart is going to give out on you?
We recommend performing your traditional cardio workouts (like running or the elliptical) either on the days when you are not weight training or before your resistance workout. Choose one of the exercise options we have outlined here and spend 20-30 minutes engaged in your cardio training.
If, however, you choose something high intensity like HIIT or battle ropes, your workout could be as short as 8 minutes. But it will be the hardest 8 minutes of your life!
Cardio in all its forms is hard, grueling, and exhausting work. But hopefully we’ve convinced you it’s worth the effort.
Now get to work!
And before you go, check out my guides to squat motivation, HIIT motivation, and bench press motivation — and don’t miss what happened when I asked real psychologists about the best ways to stay motivated to workout.