Cardio-based endurance exercise sparks beneficial changes deep within your body’s cells, which can protect you against diseases and boost your life expectancy. That’s according to a new study in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

Although the benefits of cardio were already well-known, including improved heart health and lung function, the study found that the specific cellular changes elicited by cardio are more beneficial than those derived from strength training alone.

Swedish researchers compared three groups of people who performed endurance exercise (45-minute bike rides at 70 per cent of their VO2 max), resistance training (four sets of leg presses and knee extensions at their seven-rep max) or no exercise at all. Muscle biopsies and blood samples were taken from all of the subjects before and after their training regimes.

The endurance group was found to have higher mitochondrial activity than the other two groups. Mitochondria are the energy powerhouses of your cells. The more active they are, the better your metabolic health, which is usually linked to lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. These are all vital markers for the prevention of conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease and heart disease.

Although strength training is still crucial for developing muscle mass and bone health, everyone can benefit from regular cardio to avoid metabolic diseases and live a longer life.

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Words: Mark Bailey