Why Should I Exercise?

Last week the question ‘Is exercise good for you?’ was presented and then broken down. Hopefully it made you think a little bit about this whole exercise thing. To build off of what was discussed, we will begin to name a few of the MANY benefits of exercise and determine the the main reasons as to why you should exercise…

To begin, let’s define the two main types of exercise:

  • Aerobic exercise (presence of oxygen) - any activity that uses large muscle groups, can be maintained continuously and is rhythmic in nature; oxygen utilization being vital in producing energy. 

    • Examples include cycling, dancing, hiking, jogging/long distance running, swimming and walking.

  • Anaerobic exercise (absence of oxygen) - intense physical activity of very short duration, fueled by the energy sources within the contracting muscles and independent of the use of inhaled oxygen as an energy source.

    • Exercises typically thought of as anaerobic consist of fast twitch muscles and include sprinting, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), power-lifting, etc.

Alright, now that the terminology is taken care of we can discuss why these are different, why each is important, and what benefits we can gain from each of them.

1. Why are they different?  

The main thing to look at when comparing the two types of exercise is one our body’s best friends: oxygen.  We need it to live and it’s very vital to most of our bodily functions. When it comes to exercise, it is important in providing us with energy to sustain our exercise.  The main differences being:

  • With aerobic exercise, we are exercising at a low enough intensity, that oxygen can be utilized to support the energy producing systems in the body.  In other words, we can do things for a long duration because of the low demand.

  • With anaerobic exercise, we are exercising at a high enough intensity, that our body can’t keep up with oxygen demands required to produce energy.  Our body then uses glucose as its main source of energy, which lasts for a much shorter duration. (Fun fact, a byproduct of this process is lactic acid, which causes the ‘burning’ sensation in our muscles.)

The cool thing is if we are doing both of these regularly, then our body will begin to become more efficient at both of them, which is crucial for our overall health (discussed in benefits).

2. Why is each important?

  1. Our body will require very specific physiological demands for each type

  2. Our body will respond and adapt differently/specifically to each type

  3. If you’re working towards a specific goal, it will be important to know what training modality or type of exercise will be the most effective at accomplishing that goal.  We can determine this based on the specific demands and adaptations for each type.

Basically, the way you train or exercise will elicit specific changes in the body.  Wouldnt it make sense to have pinpoint accuracy with your exercise routine rather than randomness and hoping for the best?

3. What are the benefits of each?

Now that we hopefully have a clearer understanding of what is going on, let’s look at what each type of exercise can help us with

Aerobic Exercise Benefits and Effects:

  • Increase bone density (stronger bones)

  • Decrease body fat% (important for longevity and avoiding chronic illness)

  • Decrease insulin response

  • Increase good cholesterol and decrease bad cholesterol

  • Decrease resting heart rate

  • Improve cardiovascular (heart and lung) function (more stamina, less fatigue)

  • Improve overall quality of life

Anaerobic Exercise Benefits and Effects:

  • Increase bone density

  • Increase lean body mass (muscle)

  • Increase muscular strength

  • Increase insulin sensitivity

  • Increase basal metabolism (resting metabolism)

  • Improve quality of life by maintaining long term independence and functional capacity

  • Reduce risk of osteoporosis  colon cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity, renal failure and low back pain

Pretty powerful stuff, isn't it?! And these are just naming a few, there are plenty more...Not only is exercise one of the best prevention tools for maintaining optimal health, but it can also change and reverse chronic conditions along with aging. Almost a no brainer when it comes to doing it! Hopefully this brings some perspective on how important it truly is and why everyone SHOULD be doing some form of it (and not just for aesthetic reasons).

Next week we will discuss how much (both aerobic and anaerobic) is recommended and how you can determine if you’re doing too much or too little.  Stay tuned!