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The case for cardio at any age

A local fitness trainer says cardio is great, but there's more to it than many people think
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Sweating is good for us, but did you know that cardio has been proven to reverse aging? According to a recent report in the New York Times, mice that spent 30 minutes on a treadmill (a mini-treadmill specially built for mice possibly?) – even a single workout showed a positive impact on cardio cells such that they resembled the hearts of younger mice.

Zooming out to the macro, human experience, there’s the whole “sitting is the new smoking” argument. Bar 1 Urban Fitness’s resident personal trainer Sandy Picollo says there really is no age limit for cardio. “As long as your heart is beating,” says Piccolo. “It’s a good idea to strengthen the muscle itself – and that comes by engaging in cardio – even if it is a modified version.”

For those who are diagnosed with heart disease, it’s especially important.

“What do you think happens if you don’t exercise and the heart muscle becomes weak?” laughs Piccolo. “That means the function of the heart – pumping blood to every extreme in the body, becomes compromised.”

Of course, Piccolo said it's always recommended to get medical clearance before pursuing an exercise regime - especially if you have heart disease or have a heart condition of any kind.

In general, a steady pace of incremental times can have dramatic impacts on heart health: “I’ve been a personal trainer for years,” says Piccolo. “And if there’s anything I’ve learned about cardiac health, it’s that you have to like the kind of exercise you’re engaged in.”

“For example, I hate the treadmill,” says Piccolo. “But that doesn’t mean I can’t get my cardio in.”

Swimming, skiing, skating or simply walking outside can get the heart rate up too, says Piccolo. If you do choose the treadmill, remember to pace yourself and do a warmup and a 10-minute cool down period or you could pull a muscle.

Despite living in an information age – or maybe because of it – Piccolo says many myths about cardio still exist.

“I have a lot of new clients who come in thinking that they’ve checked all the boxes because they have a cardio workout down,” says Piccolo. “But many people don’t realize that cardio is just one facet of a complete fitness regimen.”

Muscle building and yes, even flexibility, are now seen to be two other integral components of fitness. “As we age, our range of muscle and joint movement decreases,” says Piccolo. “The heart is important, but remaining flexible isn’t less critical for us.”

And smokers are welcome too. One exercise session has been known to reduce nicotine cravings. After people quit smoking, weight gain is also a big risk, so picking up cardio while quitting smoking can often be a great tool.

As Piccolo explains: “There really is no such thing as ‘too late’ or ‘too old’ when it comes to cardio fitness.”