Benefits of Aerobic Fitness

Aerobic Fitness refers to the ability of the lungs, heart and blood vessels to process oxygen into energy to enable large muscle groups to perform for a sustained period. When you are aerobically fit:

  • The heart becomes stronger allowing it to pump more blood with each stroke.
  • The veins and arteries grow larger and more supple thus accommodating a greater flow of blood with its energy rich oxygen and other nutrients.
  • The lungs become more efficient. They extract more oxygen from the same volume of air and they also become capable of processing a greater total volume of air.
  • The amount of hemoglobin increases allowing the blood to transport of more oxygen.

How Do the Above Physiological Changes Improve Your Health? 

  • The risk of dying from a heart attack is reduced by 36%. This is based on a study of 17,000 Harvard alumni who were at least moderately active (meaning that they walked for about 30 minutes daily).
  • The same study showed that the risk of dying prematurely generally, from all causes, is reduced by 22%.
  • Exercise reduces blood pressure in hypertensives by 5 to10 points – both systolic and diastolic. If your blood pressure is good, it helps you keeps it that way.
  • It is possible to exercise for a longer period without tiring and one’s aerobic threshold is higher. This results in better performance when engaged in sports and recreational activities and generally higher energy levels throughout the day.

Further, the side effects of exercising are all positive. Some flow directly from the above physiological changes, while others appear to be independent and in many cases were totally unanticipated. For example:

  • Exercise causes the release of endorphins and other chemicals in the brain that lead to an increase in one’s sense of well being. Feeling of depression and anxiety are reduced.
  • Regular exercise can lead to a modest reduction in total cholesterol, but more importantly vigorous exercise leads to a rise in high density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol that collects the harmful low density lipoprotein (LDL) from the arteries and transports it to the liver for removal from the body.
  • Exercise reduces the risk of developing adult onset diabetes, and helps control diabetes if you already have it.
  • Gastrointestinal transit time is decreased by 56% thus reducing the risk of colon cancer.
  • If the exercise is weight bearing, the mineral density of the bones is increased.
  • Regular exercise improves the body’s handling of excess heat as well as its resistance to cold.
  • Because better circulation improves the delivery of oxygen to the brain, mental capacity is improved, particularly as we age. 

Over 90% of successful dieters exercise. Here’s why:

  • Aerobic burns additional calories directly.
  • By increasing your metabolic rate, exercise enables your body to burn more calories even when you are  at rest.
  • Exercise masks hunger by suppressing ghrelin the major appetite stimulating hormone. You will not be hungry while you’re exercising and the effect will last for some hours after you finish.
  • Fat deposits release fatty acids more readily when you exercise, and the production of fat burning enzymes is increased.
  • When you do lose weight, if you are exercising, a higher percentage of the weight loss will be from fat, not from lean tissue.

Physical activity is also a gateway behavior. By that we mean that when people become active, they usually also start doing other things to improve their health, like eating better. There’s a reduction in substance abuse, and they start taking better care of themselves generally. Mental outlook improves. Morale improves. Physical activity is the easiest way to kick off a kind of virtuous cycle that can be initiated in very gradual steps. If you’re not doing anything now, just start walking and then give us a call.

The Surgeon General said, “Given the numerous health benefits of physical activity, the hazards of being inactive are clear. Physical inactivity is a serious, nationwide problem. Its scope poses a public health challenge for reducing that national burden of unnecessary illness and premature death.”

If you begin slowly, exercising is not “painful”, it’s actually pleasurable. The idea behind improving your health, of course, is to increase your enjoyment of life, not cause pain.

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Lifting Weights Slows Memory Loss

A surprising number of studies are showing how important exercise is to staving off the effects of aging, including cognitive decline. What these discussions never include, however, are descriptions of the types of exercise that get the best results. And this vagueness, plus fears of having elderly people engage in physically demanding workouts, tend to make any progress impossible.

But a new study from Canada suggests that grandma and grandpa should probably starting pumping some iron if they want to slow down the effects of cognitive decline — especially memory loss.

Scientists know that mild cognitive impairment is a risk factor for the onset of dementia. Because exercise is becoming increasingly correlated with good mental health, and because age-related cognitive diseases are nearling epidemic proportions, researchers would like to know more.

In a study led by Teresa Liu-Ambrose of the University of British Columbia, women between the ages of 70 and 80 who were experiencing mild cognitive impairment were put through 60-minute classes led by a certified fitness instructor two times per week. They used a pressurized air system (for resistance) and free weights, and were told to perform various sets of exercises with variable loads. This went on for 26 weeks while the researchers conducted tests to measure the seniors’ cognitive health.

After analyzing the data, the researchers concluded that the women had benefited from the weight training — and in more ways than one. They saw noticeable improvements in memory and attention, as well as their ability to resolve conflicts (a neat bonus). These classes were also shown to be responsible for physical improvements, including general balance and mobility.

As a result of the study, researchers believe that resistance training done twice a week could serve as a promising strategy to stave off the effects of cognitive decline in seniors, especially the onset of Alzheimer’s. It’s also clear from the study that, when supervised and guided properly, seniors can reap the physical benefits of weight training as well.

The study was published in JAMA and can be read here.

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Muscular Strength and Longevity

Two recent studies published in the British Medical Journal (here and here) reveal that muscular strength is a remarkably strong predictor of mortality — even after adjusting for cardiovascular fitness and other health factors.

This conclusion was reached after an analysis of over 30 studies that recorded physical attributes such as bench press strength, grip strength, walking speed, chair rising speed, and standing balance. What the researchers found was that poor performance on any of the tests was associated with higher all-cause mortality — anywhere from a 1.67 to a threefold increase in the likelihood of earlier mortality. The study primarily looked at people over the age of 70, although five included people under 60; but across all ages, poor physical performance was associated with increased mortality. On average, people in the strongest quintile could look forward to a life expectancy six to seven years longer than those in the weakest quintile.

Now, here’s the good news: To a non-trivial degree, and despite the inexorable effects of aging, physical strength is an attribute we can control. As the science is increasingly showing, resistance training can literally add years to your life — and the earlier you get to it, the better.

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