Exercise has been shown to deliver a wide range of health benefits. But, do you know that there are different types of exercise?
One of them is aerobic or cardio exercise, which makes you breathe faster and more deeply, maximising the amount of oxygen in your blood. As your heart beats faster, blood flow to your muscles and back to your lungs increases.
As the blood flow to all organs increases, the organs’ functions improve as they get more oxygen and more nutrients and more toxins are removed from these organs. Great blood circulation also allows for the body’s hormones, enzymes, immune cells, and other transmitters to be better distributed anywhere they are needed.
Examples of aerobic exercises include cardio machines, spinning, running, swimming, walking, hiking, aerobics classes, dancing, cross country skiing, and kickboxing.
Scientific evidence supports the various benefits of cardio exercise. These include:
It can make you smarter.
One of the more recent studies on the benefits of aerobic or cardio exercise is how it can increase the size of your brain and improve its executive function, which includes attention control, reasoning, problem solving, and planning. The study involved two groups of participants. One group participated in moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise four times a week over a six-month period, which included treadmill, stationary bike, or elliptical training. The other group only performed stretching exercises. The results of the study showed that the group who did aerobic exercise experienced a significant increase in their brain volume and executive function.
It is good for your heart.
Studies also suggest that aerobic or cardio exercise is good for your heart. One of these studies was led by Richard P. Sloan, Ph.D., professor of behavioural medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. The study was participated by 46 healthy young adults, who did moderate or high intensity aerobic exercise over a 12-week period. The study suggests that aerobic exercise can reduce inflammation, which then lowers the risk atherosclerosis, which are fatty build-ups in the arteries, that lead to most cases of heart disease.
It can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by increasing the number of mitochondria in the body.
Mitochondria are the power stations of the cells, which means the more mitochondria, the better. And, exercise can help with that. A study involving subjects over 65 years has shown that only three months of moderate exercise (150 minutes per week or 20 minutes per day) can increase the number of mitochondria by 50-65%. By increasing the number and function of your mitochondria, you are resetting your metabolism and your biological clock. Now what do mitochondria have to do with reduced risk of diabetes? Well, a larger number of mitochondria also means that your body becomes better at handling inflammations, infections, stress, and hormones. One of these hormones is insulin, allowing your body to handle the sugars better. But there is one more thing the mitochondria do for us! To create energy, mitochondria burn sugar and oxygen, and this means that the more mitochondria, the more sugar can be burned! Therefore, the exercise is almost more important to prevent diabetes than the reduction of sugar consumption (almost…). The more you exercise, the more mitochondria you produce, and the more sugar you can burn. Hence, exercise can prevent and cure type 2 diabetes.
It can lower your blood pressure.
Another benefit of aerobic exercise is that it can help regulate your blood pressure. Various studies support this, and one example of such study is a 2012 study published in the Journal of Hypertension. The study involved 50 subjects with resistant hypertension, who were randomly assigned whether to participate or not to participate in a treadmill exercise program for a period of 8 weeks to 12 weeks. The results of the study showed that regular physical exercise lowered blood pressure even in the participants with low responsiveness to medical treatment
It can lower your blood cholesterol.
This benefit is supported by a 2011 review of the research on exercise and lipid profiles. The review suggests that aerobic exercise can reduce LDL cholesterol or commonly known as bad cholesterol by an average of 7.2%. The aerobic exercise regimens in these studies include 2 to 5 times every week for 30 to 60 minutes each, with a heart rate between 50-80% of your maximum heart rate. The maximum heart rate (roughly calculated as 220 minus your age) is the upper limit of what your cardiovascular system should be able to handle during physical activity).
It can boost your immune system.
A stronger immune system means reduced risk of various diseases, and aerobic or cardiovascular exercise can help you with that. A 2012 study found that cardio exercise can get rid of harmful T-cells and replace them with ones that are good and immunity-boosting. In addition, the U.S. National Library of Medicine says that cardio exercise can help lower the risk of bacterial infection by cleansing bacteria from your lungs that may have caused a cold or other illness. Exercise can also increase your body temperature, which can help fight bacteria before you get sick and develop a fever response. So exercise is a little bit like a sophisticated dishwasher for our body — it gets rid of all the bacteria and toxins that can make us sick.
It can help you lose weight.
If you wish to lose weight, then aerobic exercise can help you with that, as shown by a 2014 study published in PLoS One. The study examined past research on the effects of diet and exercise on long-term weight loss. And, as expected, aerobic exercise was the leading cause of greatly desirable weight loss for many of us.
It is a great stress reliever.
Stress is part of life, but if you are unable to manage it well, it can drain your energy, negatively affecting your day-to-day activities and well-being in general. If you wish to have some relief from stress, exercise can help you with that. Research has shown that aerobic exercise can reduce overall levels of tension and improve mood. The results of a recent online poll carried out by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) have shown that around 14% of people use regular exercise to manage stress. Moreover, those who exercise choose walking (29%) and running (20%), which are both considered aerobic activities. Exercise also promotes the production of endorphins, which are also known as “pain-killing molecules”.
It is a natural antidepressant.
Research has shown that exercise can improve your mood. But, do you know that it can be used as a major treatment for depression? A study done by researchers from Duke University Medical Center involved two groups of men and women over the age of 50 with major depression. One group followed an aerobic exercise program for four months, while another group took an antidepressant drug. The results of the study showed that both the antidepressant drug and exercise had the same powerful effect of treating depression. This means that exercise can be used as an alternative to antidepressant drugs for treating depression, which can even be better since it is natural and does not have negative side-effects.
With the health benefits of aerobic exercise, you may want to take that walk or run you have been meaning to take or take that kickboxing class at your local gym or in the privacy of your home with a high quality fitness DVD.