What is aerobic exercise? Any type of physical activity that is primarily fueled by energy produced with the use of oxygen. Examples of this type of activity include walking, running, hiking, swimming and bicycling.
The overall health benefits of aerobic exercise is a consequence of oxygen demand. To meet the demand for oxygen during exercise, efficiency of your respiratory (lungs), cardiovascular (heart) and vascular (blood vessels) systems will improve.
Physiological events that occur to boost oxygen delivery (via the bloodstream) are:
- increased breathing rate
- raised heart rate to move more blood
- intensify venous return of blood to heart
- accelerate movement of air through lungs
- regulate movement of blood to working muscles
Essentially, your overall health benefits from routine, sustained exercise because your body adapts by improving the function of all systems involved. And the muscles used change for the better as well, adapting for a future of potentially more prolonged work.
The only way to reap the benefits of aerobic exercise is to do the work to cause a demand (of oxygen that is) routinely. And if you stop, then your body adapts back toward a less efficient state. So aerobics needs to a part of your everyday lifestyle.
Moving muscle is fueled by energy stored in a chemical called ATP. ATP is produced by your body with (aerobic) or without (anaerobic) oxygen. When energy is produced for muscle with oxygen it takes longer, but makes more with less waste. Without oxygen, energy can be produced very quickly, but lactic acid is also left over in the process. (The accumulation of lactic acid in your muscles causes fatigue, thus limiting your ability to perform for long.)
Fast or explosive movements (sprinting, weight lifting) use less oxygen to fuel the muscles involved. Outcome is stronger muscles, but body system adaptation is not substantially in play. Thus, to meet the basic needs of everyday life, aerobic exercise may be the better choice. Why? Because improvement in circulation and muscle action broadly contributes to overall fitness.
In closing, did you notice a benefit of aerobics that you believe is missing? Is it weight loss? Contrary to popular belief, aerobic exercise does little to help you lose weight. In fact for some, the opposite (weight gain) actually happens. Why? Exercise can cause an increase in appetite. For those who struggle with battling a voracious appetite, try cutting back on (but don’t quit) the duration of your aerobic activity. Research indicates that 20 minutes of sustained activity plus hourly short spurts of movement throughout the day offers the minimal circulatory benefit we all need.
As for weight reduction and management afterwards, best results come from a decrease in calorie intake.