Ask an Expert: The benefits of aerobic exercise

Q: "My husband does a lot of strength training, but refuses to include any aerobic exercise in his routine. I'm worried that he's losing out on some important health benefits, but he doesn't buy it. Can you convince him?"

Answer provided by Bruce Rife, lead fitness specialist:

Aerobic exercise is considered by most experts to be the single most important component of fitness. Studies have shown that people who do regular continuous exercise will live longer, have a greater work capacity, and will decrease their risk of coronary artery disease, cancer and diabetes. 

Aerobic fitness can be defined as the ability of the body’s cardiovascular and muscular systems to provide the necessary energy to sustain activity that uses the large muscle groups over an extended period of time. To reach aerobic fitness, a person must engage in continuous activity like jogging, walking, cycling, stair climbing, rowing, or swimming at an intensity level you can maintain for at least 30 minutes, three to seven days per week.

For individuals just starting their exercise program, remember to start slow and gradually increase intensity and duration. Beginning exercisers can start with 15-20 minutes of a low intensity activity, like easy walking, three times per week.

As your fitness level increases, first increase the duration and then the intensity of your workouts.

Here are some of the many benefits of aerobic exercise:
  • Increases the efficiency of respiration
  • Improves blood volume, distribution, and delivery to muscles
  • Improves cardiovascular efficiency
  • Increases the stroke volume, or the amount of blood pumped from the ventricle during each contraction of the heart
  • Increases cardiac output, or the volume of blood pumped by the heart each minute
  • Decreases resting heart rate
  • Improves the condition and efficiency of breathing muscles
  • Improves the efficiency of movement
  • Improves the body’s ability to use fat as an energy source
  • Improves body composition by decreasing body fat
  • Strengthens muscles
  • Strengthens ligaments, tendons and bones
  • Helps decrease the risk of developing coronary artery disease, cancer and diabetes
  • Helps decrease anxiety and stress
  • Helps you feel better overall

February 2003