Updated: May 4, 2021
Cardio training is one of those endlessly-debated topics in the world of health and fitness. You will find people out there who vehemently despise cardio and so brag about how they’ve achieved *insert desired result here* with zero cardio training whatsoever. And, of course, spoiler alert, you can achieve weight loss goals, strength training goals, body recomposition goals, etc, with no cardio training at all - but does that mean you should?
Certainly, the choice to include cardio or endurance training - and by that I mean any sort of training that increases your heart rate and breathing like walking, running, jogging, biking, swimming, etc - will have a lot to do with how much you enjoy it.
Endurance training has plenty of health benefits that extend beyond far weight loss- like improving aerobic fitness and strengthening your heart, lungs and circulatory system, it aids in workout recovery and helping to deliver oxygen to your depleted muscles, and it can even help you achieve better quality sleep, something many of us are in dire need of. So, in my opinion, yes, you should definitely be adding in some type of cardiovascular or endurance training into your overall fitness routine for the health benefits alone. But what about the mental aspect of it all? Read on to find out!
ENDURANCE TRAINING FOR MENTAL CLARITY AND FOCUS If you’ve been taking part in cardiovascular exercise for any length of time you’ve probably heard of or even noticed some of the health benefits for yourself - an improved metabolism, better mobility, weight loss or weight maintenance, increased energy throughout the day, boosted confidence, etc, but the psychological aspect of it also comes into play.
First of all, when you exercise, your body releases endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals that interact with receptors in your brain that affect the way you perceive pain. They also release positive feelings within the body, which is why they’re known as the
“feel good hormones.”
Endorphins are released generally within 10-20 minutes of exercise and their good mood and energetic effects can be felt for 2-3 hours afterwards including a mild “buzz” for up to 24 hours after exercise. It is for this reason that most exercise programs will ask that, even on days you really just don’t feel like working out, you try for at least 10 minutes. Most often you will find that ten minutes into the workout, the endorphins will have you feeling pretty good, good enough to finish the workout, and, even if not, you’ll never regret doing at least that ten minute workout.
Beyond endorphins, though, lies another powerful mental aspect to endurance training. Cardio and endurance training, as opposed to other types of exercise, places more emphasis on pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone in order to sustain the activity (jogging, swimming, cycling whatever it may be), whether its for distance or for time, in order to build the cardiovascular as well as muscular endurance to complete the task. Pushing you physically out of your comfort zone has the effect of strengthening your psychological self, your mind and mentality as well. You’ll find that as you pick up your legs for a few more strides during your run, or push your arms through the water for a few more meters of your swim, or sit back through a few more squats, that physical endurance training is also reinforcing your resilience in your own mind, your toughness and your ability to push through when you thought you couldn't go any further.
The effects of this kind of mental strengthening stretch far beyond a quick confidence boost. You are literally proving to yourself just how strong and tough you really are. This experience can be meditative for some, allowing them to clear their head, relax, and step away from the stressors of life; while for others the experience can allow them to focus and to gain a mental clarity they might not have otherwise found.
So when it comes down to the ever-evolving debate regarding cardio, take into account not only the health benefits that you can see, feel and measure, but also the ones that allow you to strengthen your body as well as your mind for the ultimate endurance training.