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.