Aerobic fitness is sometimes called heart and lung fitness, cardiovascular fitness or stamina. This is what most people think of as ‘fitness’. When you are not aerobically fit, you easily become breathless when walking briskly, walking uphill, running a few paces, or performing almost any sudden physical task. If you regularly do aerobic exercise your heart and lungs in an ‘aerobic’ way, you gradually become aerobically fitter; your lungs take in more air with each breath, and your heart does its job more efficiently, pumping more blood and oxygen around the body with each beat, so that a fit heart often beats more slowly than an unfit heart.
All aerobic exercise makes your heart beat faster. Examples of aerobic training activity include: walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, aerobics classes, stepping and rowing. The fitter you become, the harder the task you will have to set yourself in order to improve your fitness still further.
There are many degrees of aerobic fitness. Not everyone needs to – or indeed can – achieve the same level. For everyday life and benefits it may be sufficient simply to increase your aerobic fitness mildly, rather than even thinking of trying to achieve levels attained by professional athletes, for instance.
Here is a list of benefits that being fit (or fitter) aerobically can bring you.
- Freedom to eat more. You can eat more while you lose weight or, in theory, lose weight slowly without eating less because aerobic exercise burns up more calories per session than any other form of exercise. This is because the increased oxygen uptake and effort increases your metabolic rate, not only while you are exercising but also for some time after you have stopped. Small, regular sessions can keep your metabolic rate permanently raised!
- Less hunger. Most people who do periods of steady aerobic exercise report better control of eating habits, including less craving for sweet, fatty foods, as well as less inclination to drink alcohol or to smoke.
- Increased stamina. You will have more energy to cope with everyday things like walking, pushing prams and walking uphill. If you’ve always lagged behind on a walk, it’s brilliant for once to be the one in front shouting ‘come on!’
- Stress relief. In many tests, aerobic exercise has been found to reduce stress levels and to induce relaxation and well-being.
- Reduced risk of cardiovascular (heart) disease and failure. Aerobic activity lowers blood pressure and increases the levels of the heart-protecting, high-density lipoproteins in the blood. By increasing the diameter of the coronary arteries, it also lessens the risk of ‘furring’ (blocked arteries). In addition, it helps the heart by helping to reduce weight and stress.
- Improved circulation – you feel the cold less!
- Less likelihood of varicose veins.
- Improved skin. The extra flow of oxygen and blood to your skin results in a healthy glow and a smoother skin tending to fewer spots and fewer open pores. Hair condition also benefits.
- Loss of body fat from all over the body. Aerobic exercise speeds up the rate at which we burn body fat. This, combined with the fact that the large muscles of the body used in the aerobic activity will become stronger and firmer, will result in a more well-defined, attractive shape.
- Better digestive system. The rate of digestion and elimination of food is speeded up. Aerobic activity combined with healthy eating alleviates problems such as indigestion and constipation.
- Improved quality of sleep. People who regularly exercise aerobically rarely need sleeping pills or have insomnia. They have sound, deep, refreshing sleep.
- For women, a reduction in pre-menstrual symptoms such as stomach cramps and tension.
- Regular aerobic activity increases bone density and lessens toe risk of osteoporosis after the menopause.
- Enhanced powers of concentration and better brain performance all round. This is due to the increased oxygen flow to the brain.
- More cheerful and energetic disposition. You will feel less sluggish, depressed and lethargic. This is due partly to the increased oxygen uptake which acts like a tonic on your body and brain, and partly to the release of endorphins (‘happy hormones’).
- Better sex life and increased libido. For the same reasons outlined above.
- Greater mobility and well-being through to old age.
Understanding the above benefits of aerobic exercises can help you make the decision to move more every day.