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I know you’ve probably watched hundreds of instagram reels, Youtube videos, swipe videos, and ad breaks touting how you don’t need cardio, cardio is making you fat, and cardio is ruining your gains. Allow me to present the argument that not only is doing cardiovascular activity important but cardio is ESSENTIAL for Moms. That’s right you need to get your heart rate up from time to time, so that when your kid wanders off chasing butterflies you don’t drop dead from the fright. But there’s a lot of other reasons too. So let’s get into it.
Cardio DOES Burn Calories
I don’t know who perpetuated the lie that doing cardio burns no calories or that strength training burns more calories. If you’re moving an object through space (you are the object moving) it requires energy. Calories are energy. So you do burn calories when you do cardio, even if you become more efficient at doing that cardio. I burn about 150 calories when I weight train for about 30 mins. Even with afterburn (one pound of muscle burns about 6-9 calories per day depending on the study) it’s probably only 190 calories total. When I run for 30 mins I burn about 290 calories (sometimes more if it’s an uphill run). I could create all of my caloric deficit from just diet but then I would be missing out on a lot of nutrients, so instead I create some of my daily deficits from cardiovascular activity. I saw the biggest changes in my body composition when I added cardio back into my regimen. Mommy fat be gone!
Cardio Works Out Your Most Important Muscle
I know it’s easy to forget but your heart is in fact a MUSCLE. And while that uumph from lifting a heavy barbell does put some stress on circulatory system, it’s that steady state work that’s really going to give your heart a workout. As a Mom you should make sure you pay attention to your cardiovascular health because heart disease is the leading cause of death in women. You don’t have to become a marathon runner in order to have a strong heart. Simple things like going for daily walks, going for bike rides, or even dancing around the house can meet your cardio quota and give your heart the strength to endure those teenage years.
Cardio Can Lower Your Risk of Cancer
Studies have shown that regular exercise, specifically exercise that decreases body fat can lower your risk of cancer, including breast cancer, colon, and even pancreatic. It seems that engaging in cardiovascular activity helps to regulate your hormones, specially hormones like estrogen. Good cardiovascular has also shown to make getting through cancer treatment easier should a person receive a diagnosis. My Mom died of cancer after she didn’t tolerate an intrusive biopsy well. I often wonder if she would have fared better if she had been in better shape. I think about her a lot when I’m working out. Not out of fear that I might end up like her but as a reminder that motherhood isn’t just about raising babies, it’s also about taking care of yourself so you can be around for a long time for those babies.
So You Can Chase Even the Fastest Toddler
My toddler likes to yell out “Super Fast” and bolt down the block. He’s scary fast and the only reason I can catch him is because I started running. I know for a fact if I hadn’t started running I wouldn’t be able to sustain the chase or have the speed to reach him. Your toddler may not be as fast as mine but there will be situations where you’ll get distracted and your toddler might get away from you and you’ll have to sprint to reach them. I love having running as part of my regimen for this reason, even if it is the hardest form of cardio for me as an asthmatic with exercise induced asthma. But it is the most functional. I won’t always have a bike I can jump on but I’ll always have my legs (barring any freak accidents).
Protect Your Brain
We have tons of evidence that cardiovascular activity is neuroprotective (terms you pick up when your husband is a neurologist). This means participating in aerobic activities can help prevent dementia and other neurodegenerative conditions. This is probably because your red blood cells become better at carrying oxygen and you make more of them as you do more cardiovascular activity. My husband recommends to all his patients that they find a cardio activity that they enjoy and do it several times a week. If you have joint issues you can do things like cycling or rowing. My grandmother passed away from Alzheimer’s and for me it was very hard watching her fade away over 5 years. The thought of me fading like that and not remembering my children is a lot for me, so I’m going to do what I can to prevent it and that means hitting the treadmill.
Increase Your Lung Capactiy
Doing cardiovascular activities can increase your lung capacity by as much as 15% because while you’re training your heart your lungs are also creating adaptations to keep up with the demands of your heart. As little as 30 minutes per session can have an impact on your lung capacity and it can be as simple as taking a brisk walk. For Moms having increased lung capacity is not only great for keeping up with active kids but will pay off considerably with other strenuous activities you might engage in, including future pregnancies and births.
Increases Your Blood Volume
Cardiovascular activity increases your blood volume over time. Increased blood volume means that you carry more oxygenated blood which means your heart actually has to work less hard to do the same amount of work. For me personally, I noticed that since adding cardiovascular activity into my regimen it’s become a lot easier for me to get my blood drawn than it used to be. I used be thought of as a difficult draw but when I had to have all those blood draws a few months ago due to my pregnancy loss there was no problem drawing my blood.
Do More Without Getting As Tired
With all of this extra blood carrying oxygen everywhere you’re going to necessarily have more energy (provided you are not overdoing it). What Mom doesn’t need more energy? The more fit I get, the more I can push on the treadmill or the bike, the more energy I have just in regular life. I can hike several miles while carrying or pushing Rigel. I can work all day long and clean the house and still have energy left over for all my passion projects (like this blog). I never had this much energy when I was strictly weightlifting (probably because it took me so long to recover from sessions) but cardio has reinvigorated me and I can’t see myself not having it be a part of my regimen for the rest of my life.
Cardio Makes Your Lifts Easier
As your heart becomes more efficient it means that it can pump out more blood with each beat and can direct blood to the appropriate muscles faster. That blood that arrives at the muscles is usually carrying more oxygen which means that the muscles have more energy to perform the movement. This additional oxygen doesn’t just help doing the movement, it also helps after you’re done with the weightlifting session, helping your muscles to recover (and grow) faster than they would have otherwise. In my own experience I have found that my muscles have grown more efficiently despite lifting only twice a week and that even when I progressively overload my DOMS (if I experience any) are much more manageable than they used to be.
Look Leaner and Show Off Those Muscles
I used to lift 5 to 6 times a week and never saw my quad muscles. I would actively do workouts that engaged the quads because I knew mine were weak from being glute-dominant but still never could see the outline of my quads. And then I started cardio and even though I am far from the lightest I’ve ever been I can see the outline of my quads now. All of this with half the lifting effort. There is a reason why every physique competitor incorporates some kind of cardio into their programming to get ready for a competition.
So Mamas if you want to be around for a long time, have the most fun with your kids, and look the best you can look, don’t forget your cardio.
To our heart health,