Effective Exercise: Aerobic vs. Anaerobic? (Part 1)

We all have learned the importance of exercise in our lives today.  Every source of media in the world has information regarding exercise, our doctors espouse the benefits, and it is common that we all try to shoe-horn time in our busy lives for the health of our bodies. img2.man

Many people spend hours working hard to increase our metabolisms to shed unwanted pounds, in the hope of looking toned by summer for that new bathing suit or to have that stylish outfit look good for an important job interview.  Exercise can be hard work and frustrating at times, to say the least.  The following information will discuss some differences in exercise types, especially traditional aerobic or cardiovascular exercise in contrast to anaerobic training, in particular, high intensity interval training or HIIT.

Cardiovascular exercise is common, well researched, and utilized by today’s public for weight loss and health benefits.  Running, biking, swimming, using an elliptical machine, and cardiovascular classes are all very popular and share common features such as upper and lower body movements over a sustained time period.  The body basically functions aerobically to provide energy for the increase in activity.  Aerobic exercise works Type 1 or slow-twitch muscle fibers and uses oxygen from the lungs in “powerhouses” called mitochondria in muscle cells to provide energy for these exercise movements.  The heart pumps the oxygen rich blood around the body.  By performing exercise on a regular basis, the heart accommodates to the stress and becomes a stronger and a more efficient pump.  Many people will notice a drop in their heart rate as this efficiency progresses.

Recent research with cardiovascular exercise demonstrates some findings that you may not be familiar with.  Aerobic exercise stimulates endorphin production, chemicals from our body that help with pain control and give a sense of well-being.  Many athletes describe a “runners high” from exercise from circulating endorphins.  Endorphins are important, especially for people who suffer from chronic pain and depression and may help alleviate symptoms of both giving a better quality of life.  Another benefit of this type of exercise is an improvement in brain function by reducing “brain shrinkage”, a common sequela of the aging process leading to decreases in cognitive function, such as memory loss, and increases in dementia.  Exercise stress stimulates neurogenesis which allows for the growth of new brain cells.  Stimulation of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) not only maintains existing brain cells, but stimulates progenitor brain cells to form mature neurons (brain nerve cells).  Your brain actually can grow larger in volume!   Lastly, aerobic exercise can aid in cancer prevention.  Increases in blood circulation from exercise allows increased movement of immune function cells around the body that can fight cancer.  In fact, people who exercise, have lower incidences of liver, lung, colon, prostate, and breast cancers.  Aerobic exercise also helps control insulin resistance by lowering the blood sugar levels in the body.  Cancer cells depend on the body’s sugar levels for uncontrolled growth.  By creating a low sugar environment, the cancer cell growth is discouraged.

Stay tuned for Part 2 for a contrast between aerobic (traditional cardiovascular exercise) vs, HIIT (anaerobic exercise).

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