It’s a common misconception that exercise should last for hours or at least 60 minutes per day. Because of this, many people push themselves too hard — and ultimately stretch themselves too thin — just to achieve the “recommended” number of hours of exercise every day.
Others, meanwhile, get discouraged since they don’t have the time to jog or lift weights for hours every single day. As a result, they give up exercising altogether and end up with poor health.
But, if you feel the same way, you have to realize that working out doesn’t have to be a huge chore. Sure, it would be greatly helpful if you could spend a couple of hours each day on exercise but, if your work schedule, physical capacity, or energy level makes this impossible, you don’t have to aspire to it.
After all, there are many other options you can explore, and one of these is to do cardio workouts (aka aerobic exercises) for 30 minutes a day.
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This might seem useless at first glance. After all, 30 minutes seems too short — what good would it do to exercise for just half an hour? Will it even have any effect on your body at all?
The answer, surprisingly, is “Yes”.
Several studies have looked at people who do cardio exercises for only half an hour every day, and they’ve found out that these folks actually enjoy several benefits from the seemingly short time that they work out.
If you decide to incorporate 30-minute cardio workouts into your daily routine, whether it be running on a treadmill, speed walking around your neighborhood, or doing an aerobics video, you’ll get to:
1. Enhance your cardiovascular health
Cardio exercises increase your heartbeats per minute (BPM). This means that they encourage your heart to pump more effectively to bring more blood to your muscles, provide them with oxygen and nutrients, and keep them going.
But your peripheral muscles aren’t the only ones that will receive more blood flow since your heart muscles will do, too. This, in turn, helps them stay stronger and healthier and helps you avoid a wide range of cardiovascular diseases.
With these mind, it’s easy to see why more active people usually have higher BPMs than those who lead a sedentary lifestyle. In professional athletes, a high BPM denotes the fact that they regularly train and have a healthy cardiovascular system while, in couch potatoes, a high BPM often is a sign of a heart problem.
Aerobic exercises don’t just help the cardiovascular system by increasing BPM but also in other ways. They also can assist in lowering your blood pressure and regulating your cholesterol levels — two factors that can greatly affect the condition of your heart and blood vessels.
2. Boost your respiratory health
Doing cardio workouts may leave you out of breath, especially if you’re just starting out. This can be irritating — after all, no one likes to huff and puff and feel like their lungs are burning — but it’s actually a good thing in the long run.
This comes from the fact that, when you exercise, your tissues are using up oxygen faster when you’re just sitting still. This increased demand for oxygen forces your lungs to work harder to provide enough oxygen for your entire body and, as a result, they get better at what they do.
Your lungs won’t actually increase in size, but they’ll become more efficient in drawing in oxygen from the air and eliminating carbon dioxide from your body.
Within a few weeks or months, you’ll notice that you won’t easily get winded unlike before and that you can push through with more strenuous exercises. You’ll also discover that you can easily accomplish things — such as running up the stairs, lifting heavy objects, and playing tag with your kids — that used to be difficult for you.
3. Increase your speed and endurance
Speed and endurance might not be too important for ordinary people, but they’re extremely necessary if you’re an athlete or are planning to become one. These two factors are essential in almost every sport, such as running, basketball, football, and soccer, and they should be one of your priorities as an athlete.
Fortunately, you can improve your speed and endurance by doing cardio exercises for at least 30 minutes a day. As mentioned above, cardio workouts help improve your respiratory and cardiovascular system, which means that your muscles get oxygen and nutrients in a faster and more efficient way. These, in turn, help your body endure the challenges that it has to go through while you play your sport.
Doing cardio exercises on a regular basis also helps you develop your feet and leg muscles, making them stronger. With your improved muscles, you’ll find it easier to run at faster speeds and carry your body weight with ease.
4. Lose excess weight
This is number four on this list, but it’s actually the number one reason why most people take up aerobic exercises. This isn’t really surprising, though, since doing cardio does help in shedding off extra pounds by burning up fat and using it as a fuel source to power muscles.
So, by doing cardio workouts on a regular basis, you’ll access the fat stores in your body and slowly but surely shed off the excess weight you’re carrying around.
But here’s the thing: if you want to burn your fat stores at a fast and efficient way, don’t just take a slow and leisurely stroll around the neighborhood. Rather, take up intense aerobic activities that will challenge your heart and lungs and push your body to its limits.
Specifically, do your cardio exercises at a moderate intensity (which is 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate) or even at a high intensity (which is 70 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate).
By doing your workouts at these intensities, you’ll increase the amount of fat that your body burns and be closer to reaching your weight loss goals.
But how do you calculate your maximum heart rate or MHR?
Well, the general formula is to subtract your age from 220. If you’re 20 years old, for example, your maximum heart rate is around 200 beats per minute. From there, you can calculate the heart rate that you should target for moderately intense and highly intense cardio exercises.
Using the example above, you should reach a heart rate of 180 beats per minute (or 80 percent of your MHR) when you do highly intense aerobic workouts. If you want do moderately intense cardio exercises, you should reach a heart rate of 120 beats per minute (or 60 percent of your MHR).
Knowing your heart rate is important not just to maximize your workouts but also to ensure that you stay safe and healthy.
A too-high heart rate (or more than 90 percent of your MHR) signals that you’re pushing yourself too hard and that you should slow down and give your body a breather.
5. Improve your sleeping pattern
Studies have found out that exercising on a regular basis can be beneficial for people who have chronic insomnia. For one thing, it reduces the time that it takes them to fall asleep.
It also increases the length of their sleep, ensuring that they get some shut-eye for a few hours straight instead of waking up every now and then.
Even if you don’t have insomnia, you’ll still enjoy the sleep improvement benefits that exercising brings. By working out regularly, you’ll minimize daytime sleepiness and find it easier to fall asleep at night. It can even help you avoid having leg cramps while you’re asleep — a problem that wakes many people up from deep sleep.
But what you should remember is this: if you want to use exercise as a way to get better sleep, you have schedule your workouts in the morning. Several studies have found out that exercising in the afternoon or in the evening can make it difficult for some people to fall asleep.
If you really want to work out at the end of the day, stick to moderate-intensity cardio activities instead of going all-out with high-intensity exercises.
6. Enjoy better moods
If you’re constantly stressed at work or if you just feel down about something, you can use cardio exercise to get out of the dumps and lift your mood. This comes from the fact that, when you work out, your brain experiences lesser inflammation and better neural growth and develops activity patterns that promote calmness.
Your body also releases a range of hormones that help you relax, such as serotonins (which help regulate your mood) and endorphins (which are known as the feel-good hormones and are responsible for the phenomenon that athletes know as runner’s high).
As a result, you feel calmer and more relaxed and develop a more positive mindset after you work out.
The mood-lifting benefits of cardio exercise don’t just stem from physiological changes since they also affect you on a psychological level. When you take a run or ride your bike in the countryside, for example, you’ll breath in fresh air and expose yourself to breathtaking scenery, both of which can help you relax and forget your stress.
When you do aerobics with your friends, you’ll enjoy a lift in your mood not just because of the hormones that your body releases but also because of the fact that you’re having a fun time with your pals.
7. Develop better self-discipline and self-confidence
Working out in general is an exercise of willpower. After all, without it, you won’t be able to get out of bed to run, bike, or do any other activity and stick to your exercise regimen.
This increase in self-discipline becomes more evident when you make it a point to do 30 minutes of cardio workouts on a daily basis. Thirty minutes is a small amount of time; it’s something that you can easily carve into your schedule and endure without feeling too beat.
So, since your 30-minute exercise plan is highly achievable, you can easily muster the willpower to stick to it. Then, once you begin to work out for several days and weeks straight, you’ll show yourself that you can actually pull it off, leading to a stronger self-discipline and a drive to continue what you have started.
Aside from enhancing your willpower, doing cardio exercises for 30 minutes every day can also help you build a stronger self-confidence. Obviously, this can happen when you begin to notice the physical results of your workouts and see that you have lost weight and/or gained muscle mass.
However, this self-confidence runs deeper; it can stem from the fact that you have been strong and determined enough to stick your regimen and that you have now proven to yourself that you can do anything you want.
Good Health: It’s More than Just Cardio
With the benefits listed above, it’s easy to see that doing cardio for 30 minutes a day can be greatly helpful to your physical, mental, and emotional health. But what you have to realize is this: cardio isn’t enough to maintain good well-being and shouldn’t be the only thing you should focus on.
For one thing, you have to analyze your diet to see if it’s up to par. “Abs start in the kitchen, not in the gym”, as the popular saying goes, which means that no matter how hard you work out, you’ll never see any results if you keep on eating the wrong things.
So, as early as possible, give your diet an overhaul and focus on eating nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, and lean meat. Avoid overly sweet, salty, and oily dishes, and keep an eye on your portions to ensure you’re eating moderate amounts of food.
Another step you should take is to do resistance training, e.g. lifting weights, kettlebells, tires, heavy ropes, resistance bands, medicine balls, and even your own body weight.
Doing resistance training is important since it helps you build muscle mass and develop lean muscle tissue.
Having more muscles, in turn, helps you increase your metabolism and burn more energy, which means you’ll shed off excess pounds faster and find it easier to maintain the ideal weight.