Have you ever tried to maintain a healthy routine? If you’re reading this, chances are you have. For many people, this can even be a difficult question to answer. What exactly defines a healthy routine? How do you know which routines are worth trying? How do you keep up?
These were all questions I was asking when I first began the path to a healthy lifestyle. I felt overwhelmed by all of the different techniques, habits, and diets that I wasn’t able to keep up with any of it.
This would change once I learned about aerobic exercise. There are so many benefits of aerobic exercise that it is easy to stay motivated. In this article, I’ll be giving you information on aerobic exercise before diving into 21 of its most important benefits.
Before we go into this article, I want to clarify that if you are somebody who has a direct history with heart problems or a familiar one, it’s always best to consult a medical professional before you make drastic lifestyle changes. Aerobic exercise is healthy, but should always be incorporated into a daily routine with permission from a doctor.
What Is Aerobic Exercise?
Aerobic exercise is an umbrella term that can be used to describe a variety of different activities. It gets its name from the word aerobic which refers to being surrounded or caused by oxygen.
As a result of the broad definition for what constitutes aerobic exercise, there are many different forms of exercise that are considered aerobic.
Some examples of aerobic exercise include:
- Interval training
- Speed walking
- Playing sports
The linking factor between all of these exercises is that their main goal is to stimulate one’s heart and lungs. Because aerobic exercises are so central to the well-being of one’s cardiovascular system, sometimes they are referred to simply as cardio exercises.
That being said, there are many other activities that can be considered aerobic that are not included on this list.
For example, any activity that causes your heart rate and breath to speed up can be considered aerobic, leaving room open for a variety of different activities to be under the umbrella.
As you can imagine, this means that you don’t necessarily have to go to a gym to partake in aerobic exercises. It is something that can happen at any moment, meaning it is one of the most versatile exercise activities you can do.
Aerobic exercise is a great way to work out your cardiovascular system, an action that gives your body many benefits that you might not be aware of.
In the next section of this article, I’ll be showing you some of the benefits of aerobic exercise so you can see just how much an aerobic exercise routine can change your life.
21 Benefits Of Aerobic Exercise
1. Improves Mental Health
The general consensus shows that exercise can be used to tackle a variety of different mental illnesses, but is especially effective against illnesses such as major depression disorder and anxiety disorders.
This is because the activity you get through exercising reduces your overall anxiety and negative moods. At the same time, it also improves your overall self-esteem due to the constant flow of endorphins!
Aerobic exercise also improves your overall cognitive function, something that helps combat things such as depression.
There are also other ways in which mental health can be improved through aerobic exercise. For example, schizophrenia is a mental illness that involves weight gain due to antipsychotic treatment.
Because of this additional risk, aerobic exercise can help schizophrenic patients stay in shape and increase their overall well-being, affecting their mental health positively.
2. Keeps High Blood Pressure Under Control
Aerobic exercise is a great way to decrease your overall blood pressure on a similar level to high blood pressure medications. This is because when you exercise, your heart becomes stronger, allowing it to pump blood faster.
Due to the increased overall flow of blood, your systolic blood pressure gets lower, typically being lowered anywhere from 4-9 millimeters (measured through mercury).
This benefit is even recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), with WHO advocating for people to get an average of 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week. If you’re not able to maintain this amount, you can still benefit from as much aerobic exercise as you’re able to commit to on a daily basis.
3. Fights Off Degenerative Illness
As I mentioned previously in this list, aerobic exercise can help improve your overall cognitive function. This is incredibly important for preventing degenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, a disease that can be prevented through lifestyle changes 33% of the time.
This disease (along with dementia) also falls under the aforementioned recommendation from WHO to get an average 150 minutes of cardio per week as a way of preventing future degenerative illness.
Exercising can also help make sure that the effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s don’t progress as quickly, helping patients increase their overall longevity.
4. Reduces Likelihood Of Developing Cancer
Did you know that 1/3rd of deaths due to cancer are the result of not moving enough or obesity? These might not seem like things that leave you vulnerable to cancer, but they definitely are.
This is why aerobic exercise is important for those wanting to decrease their overall chances of developing cancer.
Depending on the type of cancer you’re preventing through physical activity, it does it in a few ways.
For example, women who exercise have a significantly lower chance of developing breast cancer (between 30 and 40 percent less) due to the increased flow of estrogen in their body’s system.
This is slightly different with men and women who are prone to colon cancer, as digestive changes and decreases in other harmful bodily actions (fat growth, insulin, etc.) are a direct result of exercise.
5. Reduces Inflammation From Chronic Pain
One of the trickiest parts about dealing with chronic pain is getting yourself to move anyway. For those who suffer from conditions such as arthritis, the pain that is caused by the illness makes it difficult to feel motivated to exercise.
However, the amount of benefits that you can get from just committing 20 minutes of your day to aerobic exercise is astounding.
In a recent study, it was shown that 20 minutes of aerobic exercise per day can decrease inflammation significantly.
This is the result of your sympathetic nervous system going into full swing while exercising, something that helps your body release hormones that decrease the need for your body’s immune system to cause inflammation.
6. Helps You Maintain Healthy Weight
Aerobic exercise is a great way to lose weight over a duration of time due to its ability to create a calorie deficit. This basically means that you’re able to burn more calories than you take in, allowing you to eventually lose weight if you have a consistent habit of burning calories while being conscious of what you’re taking in.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that aerobic exercise makes you lose weight on its own. Though it inherently burns calories, it needs to be coupled with a healthy diet for it to be effective.
This is because if you’re consuming the same or more calories than you’re burning off on a regular basis, then you won’t really be losing much weight after all.
Here are video highlights the concept of calorie deficit, showing you an in-depth description of how it works.
7. Lowers Chance of Heart Disease
If you’re somebody who doesn’t move around a lot and sits down frequently, you may be doing a lot of damage to your health. This is because your heart needs motion to be able to effectively protect itself from disease and being sedentary does the exact opposite, leaving it quite vulnerable.
In a recent study, a group of over 50 men and women who haven’t exercised much in their lives were tasked with different types of exercising on a regular basis for 2 years.
Through this routine, the individuals who were using aerobic exercise had the health of their heart dramatically improved, leaving them less likely to develop heart disease later on in their life.
By making aerobic exercise a regular part of one’s routine, one can seriously improve their cardiovascular health.
8. Strengthens Your Metabolism
In the medical and fitness worlds, there has been a seemingly never-ending debate over which method is more effective for increasing one’s metabolism: aerobic exercise or strength-based training.
Though there are pros and cons to each method, a recent study showed how cardio exercise can significantly strengthen your metabolism.
What the study discovered is that those who participated in the aerobic exercise had much higher production of the FGF21 hormone afterward, a specific hormone that increases the strength of your metabolism.
9. Help Manage Your Cholesterol Levels
Participating in aerobic exercise on a regular basis means that there will be less plaque in your arteries with your cholesterol levels also balancing out.
For those who are unaware, not all cholesterol is bad for you. When you hear people speak about how cholesterol build-up is bad, they’re likely referring to Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL), commonly known as a harmful type of cholesterol.
This is much different than High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL), the type of cholesterol that helps your body.
Aerobic exercise has been proven to directly affect the amount of cholesterol in your system, decreasing the amount of LDL and raising the amount of HDL. This consistent behavior of gain and loss ensures that your overall cholesterol levels stay constant and healthy.
10. Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
It’s a well-known fact that one of the best ways you can prevent Type 2 Diabetes is through aerobic exercise.
You don’t have to be a dedicated fitness fiend to reap these benefits, though—the American Diabetes Association recommends that any sort of aerobic activity performed in a constant routine is helpful.
Those who don’t have much time to exercise can even take small breaks every 30 minutes to get up and walk around the house, something that is aerobic and decreases your chances of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
11. Decreases Your Chances of Insomnia
There have also been studies that prove the success of aerobic exercise in helping adults who deal with insomnia return to a more regular sleep schedule.
This is why the National Sleep Foundation recommends exercise as one of the natural ways to naturally improve symptoms of insomnia.
The exact mechanisms of why this happens aren’t as well-documented, but the effects are. Some hypothesize that exercise raises the body’s temperature, with the subsequent decrease in temperature easing the body into a sleep state. Exercise also affects one’s circadian rhythms, an integral part of being able to fall asleep.
12. Improves Immune System
Even just incorporating a little bit of aerobic exercise into your daily routine can be a great way to improve your immune system. This is largely due to bacteria being flushed out of different airways as a result of exercise.
There are also many changes to cells you have in your body that are geared towards fighting illness such as white blood cells and antibodies. Because aerobic exercise causes your blood flow to increase, the aforementioned cells also circulate quicker.
This video is more in-depth on the effect aerobic exercise can have on your immune system is affected by cardio exercise.
13. Makes You Happier Overall
The relationship to exercise and increases in endorphins is very well-known, even sneaking its way into pop culture.
As silly as the aforementioned example is, it’s true—aerobic exercise promotes the release of endorphins in your body and endorphins are vital to keeping your overall mood stable and promoting happiness.
Aerobic exercise makes you happier is also tied to the production of BDNF proteins that occurs when you exercise. The euphoric feeling that this produces is even considered similar to drug addiction, giving you plenty of reason to continue going once you’ve started.
14. Doesn’t Dig Into Your Wallet
While this may not be a health benefit, it is certainly a benefit that results from aerobic exercise. Because the only criteria required for an activity to be considered aerobic is that it makes your heart beat faster and your breath to increase, this also encompasses a variety of activities that you can do at home.
Though it is possible to pay for a membership to a gym, it’s not necessary to get your aerobic exercise in. Because of this, you can save a great deal of money. You also won’t have to worry about travel time to and from the gym, allowing you to exercise more and be healthier overall!
Want a list of cardio activities you can do at home? Here’s a good list to begin with.
15. Can Help With Asthma
Asthma is a condition that can be incredibly helped by aerobic exercise! This is because aerobic exercise targets inflammation, something that typically makes it difficult for people with asthma to breathe through their throat.
This is why many doctors recommend those who have asthma to also incorporate a sensible workout routine (alongside normal medication) to encourage their body to manage breath more efficiently.
If you are somebody who deals with asthma, you shouldn’t make any lifestyle changes until you consult a medical professional, but it’s certainly worth looking into.
16. Keeps Muscles Defined
Aerobic exercise is also well-known as something that will increase the overall tone of your muscles. Cardio doesn’t necessarily define your muscles in the same way strength training does, but it will work really well in conjunction with other types of muscle conditioning.
Because muscles are also constantly growing as you continue to age, aerobic exercising is a great way to keep them engaged on a regular basis, helping them grow as well.
This is mainly because exercises that are useful for muscle toning can also count as aerobic exercise, meaning that you can do two helpful exercises at once as a result of doing frequent cardio!
17. Decreases Resting Heart Rate
It might seem counterproductive to drastically increase your heart rate as a means of slowing it down, but it does make sense.
Remember how I was speaking earlier about how cardio increases the strength of your heart? This relates to your heart rate because the strength of your heart determines its efficiency to pump blood. With blood pumping through your cardiovascular system more frequently, your resting heart rate is lowered.
A healthy, low resting heart rate can also affect some of the other points included on this list. For example, it helps you avoid heart disease and other cardiovascular illnesses, which will ultimately increase your longevity.
18. Improve The Health Of Your Bones
Aerobic exercise is great for helping you maintain the density of your bones. This is because—despite them seeming stagnant. Bones are considered a living part of your body. They actually continue growing through your 30s, meaning that you should always keep exercising to assist them in growing.
This is why exercise is so important for bone growth—like your muscles, it keeps them engaged so they can retain their density
When you’re past your 30s, it’s still important to exercise on behalf of your bones. If you don’t, your bones might lose their overall density, something referred to in medical communities as bone loss.
Because your bones will then become more fragile over time, you can be more vulnerable to bones breaking and other ailments.
19. Increases The Flexibility Of Joints
In a similar way to your bones, joints also benefit a great deal from consistent exercise as a means of helping them continue to grow. If you don’t frequently participate in aerobic exercise, you leave yourself vulnerable to having joint injuries in the future.
In the same way that people who deal with chronic illness can benefit from aerobic exercise due to it promoting anti-inflammation, the same anti-inflammatory properties can help joints stay more fluid and healthy.
Through aerobic exercise, the muscles surrounding joints will grow, significantly affecting their range of motion and subsequently flexibility.
If you are somebody who has joint problems (especially as a result of arthritis), it’s worth mentioning that you should speak with a doctor before engaging in certain exercises.
This is because performing exercises in a certain way could worsen your joint problems without proper preparation and stretching beforehand.
That being said, it can be incredibly helpful for promoting joint flexibility under proper circumstances.
20. Slows Cellular Aging
At the tips of our chromosomes rests pieces of matter called telomeres, things that help keep DNA from being excessively damaged.
It is a commonly agreed upon fact in scientific communities that telomeres are good indications for cellular lifespan, meaning that the size of a telomere is a good indication of how old the cell will grow to be.
As you might imagine given the context of this article, aerobic exercise is very productive for increasing the size of telomeres, affecting their natural growth drastically (proven in this study).
As a result of telomeres growing larger as a side effect of aerobic exercise, cellular aging in general is slowed down greatly. This is a wonderful thing, as it gives your body stronger resources in the long run to fight illness and manage its various processes.
The New York Times article “Is Aerobic Exercise the Key to Successful Aging?” elaborates more on the aforementioned study, providing revisions and showing how the growth telomeres can be directly related to aerobic exercise routines.
21. Helps You Live Longer
At the root of all of these health benefits is that aerobic exercise helps you live longer—fact.
Whether it’s increasing the productivity of your heart, helping you prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s, dementia and cancer, or helping you deal with conditions you already have, aerobic exercise can turn the human body into a powerhouse.
All of these benefits end up increasing your overall lifespan, as you will have a higher chance of not having health complications later on in life.
This is last on my list because I believe it to be not just the most important, but also the most significant given the context of the other 20 points.
By having a healthier cardiovascular system, higher bone density, and stronger muscles, one can not only live healthier but live longer.
It is clear that those who are in an aerobic routine on a regular basis are improving their bodies in numerous ways in addition to expanding their lifespan.
Like I wrote at the beginning of the article, it can be very difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle over a period of time. However, keeping up an aerobic exercise routine doesn’t have to be difficult.
Because there are so many different ways to work out, you can tailor your routine to your schedule, your budget and your personal preference. At the end of the day, there are many benefits to staying healthy, but these benefits can only work when combined with motivation.
I hope this article has been helpful for informing you about the benefits of aerobic exercise and has given you the confidence to try it yourself!