Walking: Health Benefits of Aerobic Exercise

No one would argue with me when I say that the most crucial type of exercise for the average person is aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming, and bicycling.

Aerobic is a biological term that simply means "with oxygen". This is why people talk in terms of "better wind" or "getting less puffed" when they get together to discuss fitness.

What they are really trying to say is that they want to improve the functioning of the aerobic energy system, but they don't have the right words to describe what happens inside their bodies.

When performing aerobic exercise your body changes and adapts. Increase your aerobic fitness and you'll get:

  • better cardiorespiratory fitness: more oxygen into the lungs and more oxygen across the membranes of the lungs and into your bloodstream.
  • better cardiovascular fitness: more red blood cells (hemoglobin) and blood fluid (plasma) to carry the oxygen to the working muscles, and more blood vessels in the muscles to get the oxygen right into the muscles, where it is needed.
  • better specific muscle aerobic fitness: more myoglobin to carry the oxygen to the little power generators of the muscle (mitochondria), more mitochondria to use the oxygen to combine with fats (triglycerides) and carbohydrates (glycogen) to create energy (Adenosine triphosphate or ATP).
  • better ability to mobilize the fats from fatty (adipose) tissue.
  • better ability to get rid of the waste products of aerobic energy metabolism (carbon dioxide and water).

The next time you are thinking about how much of a slob you've become, think of the benefits of even a small increase in your aerobic fitness.

You all know that sinking feeling you get when you contemplate that roll of fat that seems to be gradually growing across your stomach.

If you need some prompting to get you started on your home exercise program, here are some of the benefits of participating in a regular aerobic fitness plan that pop into my mind.

All these benefits are backed up by scientific research, and accepted widely:

  • you can perform more physical activity with less fatigue.
  • you'll be healthier. For example your blood pressure will be lower and you'll get a reduction in low density blood cholesterol (these are the baddies).
  • fitnessyou'll be less at risk of a heart attack, and if you do have a heart attack you will be more likely to survive.
  • you burn up more calories per minute when you get fitter.
  • you get an increase in lean body mass: blood, bones and muscles get denser and stronger.
  • you'll get an increase in your ability to mobilize and utilize fat stores, leading to a decrease in adipose tissue (body fat or "cellulite" - I really hate that word, as "cellulite" is nothing mystical, just fat and connective tissue; get rid of the fat, and no "cellulite" problems). 
  • you'll reduce your chances of getting lower back pain.
  • you’ll experience a reduction in such things as stress, tension, and mental illness. 
  • you'll increase specific muscle strength and endurance.
  • you'll recover more quickly after any form of vigorous activity.
  • as you age, your bones will slay stronger and less brittle.
  • your self-concept and body image will be enhanced.
  • your personality will improve.
  • all leading to the best bit of all - ta da, researchers have shown that the improvements in body image and physiological functioning will improve your sex life. Believe me, it's in the research literature!

If you are already exercising regularly, then congratulations. The next time someone is giving you a hard time by asking you why you bother, surprise them.

Tell them about all these benefits to your body, mind, and "well-being" (and your sex life) that come naturally to those who invest some of their time in regular exercise. All that regular exercise is worth it.


write for us fitnessI often see someone walk onto the net ball or squash court and start a game - no preparation, no warm-up, no recovery.

Or go to the gym, do a couple of stretches, lift a few weights, rest, lift a few more weights, rest, talk, rest, lift a few weights, and rest and talk a bit more. Are these people having an aerobic workout? No way!

These forms of exercise may increase flexibility, or muscle endurance, or strength, and even burn up a few calories and improve the person's self image by winning a game or lifting more weight than others in the gym, but they are not aerobic exercise.


In order to strengthen the cardiorespiratory system, the cardiovascular system, increase your ability to mobilize body-fat stores and reduce your chances of diseases associated with ageing or lack of activity (such as obesity or osteoporosis), you must elevate your heart rate and keep it elevated for a minimum of 20 minutes three times per week.

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