Everyone knows that exercise is essential for optimum health. Most of us have been told this since childhood. But what makes exercise so important for good health? Well, human beings have been exercising since the dawn of man. It’s what has perpetuated our species. Although, 10,000 years ago it wasn’t considered exercise, it was called surviving. Back then it took a lot of effort to survive. There was no pizza delivery or GrubHub. Early humans would have to travel on foot to hunt and gather food. Early man could spend days tracking animals to hunt. Fortunately, in our modern society we don’t have to hunt for our food. However, we also don’t get the exercise our ancestors got from hunting. Humans are biologically wired to move and when we don’t, health issues start to arise. Exercise is essential for good health and offers both physical and neurological benefits.
But is all exercise created equal? Let’s start by saying that any kind of exercise is going to be beneficial for your health. However, different types of exercise have different benefits for the body and brain. What are the different types of exercise? The four most common types of exercise include: aerobic, strength training, stretching and balance. We are going to discuss the benefits one can experience from aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise, sometimes referred to as cardio, is exercising at a low to sometimes high level of intensity for a sustained period of time. Aerobic means “with oxygen”, and refers to the use of oxygen in muscles’ energy-generating process. Some of the most common aerobic exercises include: cardio machines, spinning, running, swimming, walking, hiking, aerobics classes, dancing, cross country skiing, and kickboxing. Now, let’s discuss some of the amazing benefits you can experience from aerobic exercise.
Helps With Weight Loss
Along with a healthy diet, aerobic exercise can be aid with weight loss. Weight loss is the result of creating a caloric deficit. In other words, you have to eat fewer calories than your body burns each day. Once we achieve a caloric deficit your body starts burning fat for energy. This results in weight loss. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, achieving a caloric deficit can be challenging for some. Fortunately, aerobic exercise can be very helpful for anyone trying to lose weight. In terms of burning calories, aerobic exercise can be very effective. According to Harvard someone who weighs 155 pounds can burn 260 calories with just 30 minutes of moderate to intense aerobic exercise. Stretch that to 1 hour and that’s 520 calories! This can be very helpful for anyone trying to achieve a caloric deficit.
May Reduce Type 2 Diabetes
Recently diabetes has become a global epidemic, primarily because of the increasing prevalence of type 2 diabetes. The CDC reports that over 29 million Americans suffer from diabetes. That’s almost 10% of the US population! According the American Diabetes Association, aerobic exercise is a generally accepted therapeutic strategy for type 2 diabetes. This is because it has beneficial effects not only on glycemic profile, but also on reducing metabolic risk factors for cardiovascular diseases including insulin resistance. One study showed that aerobic exercise when combined with strength training resulted in significant improvements of glycemic control, glucose control, glucose intolerance, insulin action in postmenopausal women with type 2 diabetes.
Just about everyone has experienced depression at some point in their lives. Depression is a global disease and it affects 350 million people around the world according to the NIMH. That’s 5% of the world’s population! Most people who suffer with severe depression will take an anti-depressant (SSRI) to help alleviate their symptoms. However, aerobic exercise might be an effective solution. Aerobic exercise has been shown to help alleviate symptoms in those suffering from depression.
Furthermore, one study took 43 depressed undergraduate women and randomly assigned them to either an aerobic exercise treatment condition in which they participated in strenuous exercise, a placebo treatment condition in which they practiced relaxation exercises, or a no-treatment condition. After 10 weeks results showed that participants in the aerobic exercise condition had reliably greater increases in aerobic capacity and reliably greater decreases in depression than did the participants in the placebo or no-treatment condition. So next time you are feeling down in the dumps lace up your running shoes and go for a run! You’ll be happy you did!
May Reduce Dementia
Almost everyone knows someone suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s. In fact, an estimated 47 million people around the world are living with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Aerobic exercise has shown to be beneficial in people with cognitive impairment and dementia in old age.
Furthermore, physicians at Goethe University Frankfurt examined the effects of aerobic exercise on brain metabolism and memory of 60 participants aged between 65 and 85 in a randomized controlled trial. The results of the study showed physical activity had influenced brain metabolism and had prevented an increase in choline. The concentration of this metabolite often rises as a result of the increased loss of nerve cells, which typically occurs in the case of Alzheimer’s disease. The findings showed that aerobic exercise not only improves physical fitness but also protects cells.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. Anxiety affects 40 million adults in the United States, or 18.1% of the population every year. Many people are looking for natural remedies to help alleviate their anxiety. Meditation and yoga have become increasingly popular in recent years for their anti-anxiety effects. Now you can add aerobic exercise to this list.
For example, one study took 54 participants who suffered from anxiety and had them complete six sessions of running on a treadmill at either high intensity or low intensity. The results showed that both high- and low-intensity exercise reduced anxiety. However, the high intensity exercise had a more rapid reduction in a global measure of anxiety and produced more treatment responders than low intensity exercise. This study also showed that only the high intensity exercise reduced fear of anxiety related bodily sensations.
Improves Cardiovascular Health
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Unfortunately, this disease doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. In fact, the American Heart Association estimates that by the year 2030, the prevalence of cardiovascular disease is expected to increase by 9.9%. Fortunately, aerobic exercise has been shown to improve cardiovascular health. This is achieved by increasing the body’s ability to utilize blood and oxygen.
Furthermore, aerobic exercise is actually able to increase the size of the hearts ventricles. This means that your hearth doesn’t need to pump as fast to deliver the same amount of blood. This becomes evident in a slower resting heart rate and a slower heart rate for the same exercise intensity. Aerobic exercise will also improve your endurance. For example, if you jog every day, you will start to notice that the distance you can run will gradually increase without additional effort.
Improves Sleep Quality
Here at FIT + Raw, we believe that getting adequate sleep is paramount to optimal health. That is why we have included “improved sleep quality” as one of the best benefits of aerobic exercise. A handful of studies have shown that aerobic exercise can significantly improve sleep quality in those with chronic insomnia. According to the National Sleep Foundation, recent studies showed that participants slept significantly better and feel more alert during the day if they get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week.
Furthermore, researchers took 2,600 men and women, ages 18-85, found that 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a week, provided a 65 percent improvement in sleep quality. Participants also said they felt less sleepy during the day, compared to those with less physical activity. So if you want to fall asleep faster and wake up feeling more rested, get moving!
What benefits have you experienced from aerobic exercise? Let us know!