Benefits of Aerobic Conditioning
(A few good reasons to move around a bit more)

Compiled by Dr. Michael Olpin

  Cardiovascular benefits  Body functions metabolism  Musculoskeletal Mental functioning  Bonus benefits


  1. Increase in the diameter of the blood vessels
    1. allows blood to move through the blood vessels more easily
    2. decreases the blood pressure during rest
    3. decreases chance for blood clots to completely block blood flow
  2. Increase in Cardiac Output which is characterized by the following:
    1. Increase in the amount of blood ejected from the heart with each beat
      1. gets more oxygen and nutrients into the cells throughout the body
    2. Increase in blood flow to the muscles
      1. up to 88% of blood flows to muscles during higher intensity aerobic activity
    3. Increase strength of contraction of the heart muscle
      1. the heart doesn't have to work so hard to do the same amount of work
  3. Decrease resting heart rate (as much as 10 bpm)
    1. heart does not have to work as hard or as often
    2. decrease your heart rate by 10 bpm and your heart beats 5,256,000 fewer beats during one year
      1. That adds up to 262,800,000 beats saved over the next 50 years
  4. Decrease in maximal output heart rate
    1. heart doesn't have to work as hard to do the same amount of work at all levels of intensity
  5. Increase in the size of the chambers of the heart
    1. heart is much stronger
  6. Increase in Stroke Volume which is characterized by a decrease in the heart rate and an increase in the strength of heart contraction
    1. Stroke volume is the volume of blood ejected per beat
    2. heart does not have to work as hard to do the same amount of work
  7. Decrease in vulnerability to dysrhythmias (abnormal heart beats) of the electrical conduction in the heart
    1. The heart is more likely to beat normally
  8. Decrease in blood pressure
    1. Decrease in resting systolic, diastolic, and mean blood pressure
    2. Decrease in both mean and diastolic pressure during maximal work
  9. Decrease in peripheral resistance
  10. Increase in the number of red blood cells
    1. This provides more oxygen carrying capacity to the cells
      1. red blood cells deliver the oxygen through the blood from the lungs to all the cells
  11. Increase in capillarization characterized by a decrease in surface area within capillaries
    1. increases the transport of nutrients and oxygen into the cells from the blood vessels
    2. More capillaries means more places for nutrients to pass out of the blood into cells
  12. Helps blood vessels retain their flexibility
    1. tends to keep blood pressure lower
  13. Enhances both the clotting and the anti clotting mechanisms
    1. After exercise blood clots faster, and almost contradictorily, blood also unclots faster
      1. results in reduced risk of Atherosclerosis
    2. A substance called plasminogen is converted into plasmin to help dissolve clots. To activate the plasminogen so that it becomes plasmin, the cells that line the blood vessels produce a substance called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). Fit people produce more tPA than unfit people.
  14. Increases the blood hemoglobin levels which transport Oxygen to the muscle and transport Carbon Dioxide (waste matter) to the lungs (to be exhaled)
    1. much more efficient use of inhaled air to use the oxygen so you can do more work without getting tired
  15. Expands blood plasma volume
  16. Increases the strength of cardiac tissue
    1. stronger heart means it lasts longer and works better
  17. Increases anaerobic threshold
    1. Allows you to work or exercise longer at a higher level before a significant build up of lactic acid
  18. Increases efficiency of blood coagulation (hemoconcentration)
    1. Injuries resulting in bleeding will stop bleeding sooner
  19. Increases total blood volume (up to 25%)
    1. More blood means more oxygen carried to cells and organs
  20. Decreases existing plaque buildup along the walls of arteries
  21. Reduces the risk of developing hypertension (high blood pressure)
  22. Reduces the rate and severity of medical complications associated with hypertension
  23. Offsets some of the negative side-effects of certain antihypertensive drugs
  24. Increases the amount of blood that goes to the brain (presented at the 2003 meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans)

    1. marked by a higher brain capillary volume
    2. exercisers were reported to be "more aroused, alert and engaged" in the study comparing exercisers with non-exercisers.
  25. Increases respiratory muscle strength and muscle endurance
    1. this is particularly important for asthmatics
  26. Increase in capillary density near skeletal and cardiac muscle characterized by
    1. an increase in myoglobin stores
    2. an increase in the number of capillaries surrounding muscle tissue
    3. an increase in mitochondrial "reticulum."
    4. an increase in size and number of mitochondria (powerhouse of the cell)
      1. allows more oxygen to be absorbed into the muscle cells
      2. transports more nutrients to the tissues
      3. permits greater levels of aerobic work
  27. Decreases levels of the protein known as C-reactive protein (CRP) in the body.  Evidence shows that people with high levels of this protein appear to have a higher than average risk of cardiovascular disease. A recent study suggested that testing for CRP could be an even better predictor of heart attack than high cholesterol. SOURCE: Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology 2002;22:1869-1876.
  28. Thins the blood
    1. heart does not have to work as hard
  29. Improves the likelihood of surviving a myocardial infarction (heart attack)
  30. Descreased risk of ischaemic and haemorrhagic stroke (December issue of IJCP, the International Journal of Clinical Practice,)
  31. Decreases overall risk of heart disease
    1. Probably more than any other single factor


  1. The liver functions more efficiently to promote the following benefits:
  2. Increases HDL
    1. The "good cholesterol" which helps break down and move fats through the blood. This is found to be protective against some heart diseases
  3. Decreases LDL
    1. The "bad cholesterol" which tends to form plaque in the walls of coronary arteries which may lead to cardiovascular diseases
  4. Helps reduce the amount of insulin required to control blood sugar levels
    1. If you are a type I (insulin-dependent) diabetic
  5. Decreases risk of type II diabetes (American Journal of Epidemiology)
    1. regardless of age or weight

  6. Increases tissues' responsiveness to the actions of insulin
    1. Improves tissue sensitivity for insulin (Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2009 May 15)
    2. Increases muscle sensitivity to insulin (Curr Diabetes Rev. 2007 Aug;3(3):176-84.)
    3. helps control blood sugar levels
      1. important for those with type II diabetes
  7. Increases the body's ability to utilize fat as an energy source during physical activity
    1. "Spares glycogen" so the levels of glycogen stores aren't depleted as quickly. This results in the ability to do work for longer periods of time. You don't "hit the wall" during long periods of activity
    2. Increases the body's ability to release fat stores
    3. less chance of ketosis
  8. Decreases total blood triglycerides
    1. This will further decrease one's chance of heart problems
  9. Decreases percentage of body fat
    1. This takes some strain off weight bearing joints
    2. This decreases risk of hypertension
    3. This allows one to move more easily through any activity
    4. This usually gives one an increase in their self image and a sense of control
  10. Reduces level of abdominal obesity
    1. This is a significant health-risk factor
  11. Protects against "creeping obesity"
    1. the slow but steady weight gain that occurs as one ages
  12. Allows consumption of greater quantities of food and still maintain caloric balance
  13. Decreases the recovery time from work
    1. Can begin next task sooner after working out
    2. Don't feel as sore as long
  14. Increases the number of enzymes involved in aerobic activity
    1. Allows for greater levels of utilization of the nutrients and oxygen taken in by the digestive and respiratory systems which leads to higher energy levels at all work levels
  15. Increases activity in the Krebs Cycle
    1. This cycle produces the bulk of the energy the muscles need for endurance
  16. Increases the diffusion of Oxygen capacity in the lungs
    1. Enhances the exchange of oxygen from the lungs to the blood
    2. Increase in surface area of alveoli
    3. Increase in diameter of capillaries, veins, and arteries
    4. This means more oxygen is making it to the cells where it can efficiently produce more energy
  17. Increases depth of breathing
    1. Not only is this a more relaxing way of breathing, but it also gets more air into the lower parts of the lungs where greater levels of oxygen exchange occur; the lower lobes of the lungs have greater capillarization
    2. This increases the amount of oxygen circulating through the bloodstream
  18. Decreases resting respiratory rate
    1. More relaxing to breathe this way
  19. Decreases minute volume (minute ventilation) of lungs for a given workload
    1. This is the volume of air that is breathed into the body each minute
    2. More air intake means more oxygen to all parts of the body
  20. Increases VO2 max. (up to 10-30%)
    1. This will increase the total amount of work you can do at any workload
  21. Increases A-VO2 difference
    1. This means more oxygen is being taken from the blood into the cells
    2. Spares glycogen so you don't run out as quickly
  22. Decreases energy expenditure for a given workload
    1. The body uses what resources it has more efficiently such as the nutrients it takes in and the overall oxygen use.
  23. Helps maintain resting metabolic rate
  24. Increases the body's ability to remove waste products
    1. Digestive system works better
    2. Waste matter doesn't sit and ferment in the intestines
    3. lymphatic system moves more which results in more destruction of potentially harmful matter
  25. Aids in digestion of food
    1. food is more likely to move through the large and small intestines more quickly
    2. less chance for cancers and other problems to crop up
    3. relieves constipation
  26. Increases ability to supply blood flow to the skin for cooling
  27. Increases growth hormone production
    1. increases the efficient use of fats
  28. Decreases risk of the following cancers (Cancer development - normal ratio 1:3, athletes 1:7)
      1. due to increased levels of inerleukin-1 and interferon and increased numbers of natural killer cells, circulating lymphocytes, granulocytes, and other protective bodies
    1. Colon
    2. Breast
      1. Shown to decrease breast cancer in women by 60%
      2. May cut side effects of breast cancer therapy (Journal of Clinical Oncology 2001; 19:657-665)
    3. Prostate
    4. Uterus
    5. Ovaries (Obstetrics and Gynecology October 2000)
    6. Cervix
    7. Vagina
  29. Increases efficiency of thyroid gland
    1. This produces hormones which assist in burning energy from carbohydrates
  30. Helps the body resist upper respiratory tract infections
  31. Decreases the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding
  32. Reduces risk of endometriosis
    1. This is a common cause of infertility
  33. Increases the body's ability to regulate heat
  34. Increases the body's ability to adapt to cold environments
  35. Helps to alleviate certain menstrual symptoms
    1. more regular menstrual cycles
    2. less physical distress associated with menstruation
  36. Helps decrease the appetite
    1. This is a short term effect only
  37.  Helps in managing the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome ( 2002-10-21 13:19:17 -0400)

  38. Helps decrease non-alcoholic fatty liver disease independent of changes in weight and diet ("The Independent Effects of Physical Activity in Patients with Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease." St. George, Alexis; Bauman, Adrian; Johnston, Amanda; Farrell, Geoff; Chey, Tien; George, Jacob. Hepatology; July 2009.)
      1. exercise provides beneficial changes in liver enzymes, insulin resistance and metabolic risk factors


  1. Increases the thickness of cartilage in the joints
  2. Increases the strength of connective tissue such as ligaments and tendons
    1. This decreases the risk of many injuries to locations such as the knee, ankle, shoulder, etc.
  3. Increases the size of skeletal muscle (more actin & myosin contractile proteins)
    1. allows for greater strength during a contraction (while flexing)
  4. Increases overall muscle strength
  5. Increases overall muscle endurance
  6. Maintains and increases muscle and joint flexibility
  7. Slows the rate of joint degeneration if one suffers from osteoarthritis
  8. Increases bone density (esp. if exercise is weight bearing) by depositing more calcium in the bones
    1. Makes bones much stronger (bones respond to exercise by increasing strength)
    2. Important in decreasing risk of osteoporosis later in life
      1. retards bone loss that comes from the aging process
    3. Provides protection against injury
  9. Enhances muscle tone and physique
  10. Improves body posture
  11. Builds and maintains lean body mass
    1. Increases overall level of muscle strength
  12. Helps to alleviate low-back pain
  13. Reduces likelihood of developing low-back problems
  14. Helps prevent and relieve the stresses that cause carpal tunnel syndrome
  15. Reduces the risk of hip fractures in middle-age and elderly (Nurses Health Study)

Mental Function

  1. Increases endorphin production
    1. These are hormones produced by the brain which cause a person to actually "feel good."
    2. Endorphins act naturally the same way the chemical morphine acts in the body without the side effects
  2. Improves mental alertness
  3. May cut risk of Mental Decline Geda YE, et al "Physical exercise, aging, and mild cognitive impairment" Arch Neurol 2010; 67: 80-86.
  4. Improves mental cognition
    1. a short-term effect only
  5. Helps to boost creativity
  6. Helps your brain develop and grow - neurogenesis
  7. Changes our genes in positive ways  2013 Oct 27.
  8. Assists in the process of physical relaxation
    1. The body is forced to go through the exhaustion phase after exercise
  9. Decreases strains associated with psychic stress
    1. exercise releases excess tensions
    2. exercise increases adaptability to stressors
    3. exercise reduces levels of general anxiety
    4. exercise reduces neuroticism
  10. Positively affects self-concept and perception of self-esteem and competence and anxiety
  11. Decreases overreaction by "stress" hormones
    1. The body will tend to maintain an equilibrium of the hormones which give rise to feelings of "fight or flight,"
      1. adrenaline and cortisol
  12. Acute exercise can exacerbate the pain  of chronic musculoskeletal pain (CMP - similar to fibromyalgia), but long-term exercise has the opposite outcome and reduces it. Study Published in The Journal of Pain (8/20/2010).
  13. Can help relieve the pain of tension headaches
    1. These are the most common types of headaches
  14. Helps to relieve and prevent "migraine headache attacks."
  15. Improves pain tolerance and mood from osteoarthritis
  16. Decreases depression levels significantly
    1. psychiatrists occasionally recommend exercise for depression before recommending medication
  17. Moderate exercise not only treats, but prevents depression  October 2013 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine
  18. Decreases Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  19. May Cure Grumpiness (Journal of Aging and Physical Activity 2000;8:407-430)
  20. Slows some of the physical impairment caused by Alzheimer's disease (JAMA Oct. 15, 2003).
    1. Healthy people who reported exercising regularly had a 30 to 40 percent lower risk of dementia (Journal of Neuroscience April 27, 2005;25:4217-4221).
  21. Physical activity promotes changes in the brain that may protect high-risk individuals against cognitive decline, including development of Alzheimer’s disease. (Vol. 54 (January 2011) of the journal NeuroImage)
  22. Increase in brain cell proliferation, especially in the hippocampus vital for memory and learning.
  23. Builds gray and white matter in the brains of older adults.
  24. Combined with calorie restriction, exercise appears to delay some of the debilitating effects of aging by rejuvenating connections between nerves and the muscles that they control. (The research, largely conducted by postdoctoral researchers Gregorio Valdez, Juan Tapia, and Hyuno Kang, was funded by the National Institute on Aging, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and Ellison Medical Foundation.)
  25. Improves decision-making abilities
  26. As little as 30 minutes of continuous aerobic exercise improved cognition by 5 to 10%  (Hillman, C. H., Pontifex, M. B., Raine, L. B., Castelli, D. M., Hall, E. E., & Kramer, A. F. (2009). The effect of acute treadmill walking on cognitive control and academic achievement in preadolescent children. Neuroscience, 159(3), 1044-1054.)
  27. Promotes greater levels of excitement and enthusiasm. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology. (Feb. 2012)
  28. Increases longevity
  29. Being physically active reduces the risk of all-cause mortality. The largest benefit was found from moving from no activity to low levels of activity, but even at high levels of activity benefits accrue from additional activity. Non-vigorous physical activity and all-cause mortality: systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies. Woodcock J, Franco OH, Orsini N, Roberts I. Int J Epidemiol. 2010 Jul 14.


  1. Improves athletic performance
  2. Develops motor skills
    1. Improves efficiency of movement (e.g. running, jumping)
  3. Increases the number of good years lived dramatically
    1. far fewer years lived sick, debilitated, or hospitalized
  4. Helps reduce and prevent the immediate symptoms of menopause
    1. These include hot flashes, sleep disturbances, irritability, etc.
  5. You feel younger than your biological age (at any age)
  6. Improves balance and coordination
  7. Increases function of the immune system
    1. body is able to fight off disease more easily
  8. May help reduce the misery of the flu by boosting the immune system's response to the virus (Journal of Infectious Diseases, November 1, 2009)
  9. Helps prevent aspects of Parkinson's disease (gait, balance, strength, depression, apathy, fatigue, constipation, osteoporosis, heart disease)  2013 Sep 15;28(11):1587-96. doi: 10.1002/mds.25658.
  10. Helps control appetite
  11. Effective in Treating Fibromyalgia (SOURCE: British Medical Journal 2002;325:185-187)
  12. Prevents loss of your ability to smell things. Regular exercise was associated with lower 10-year cumulative incidence of olfactory impairment.  2013 Oct 1;139(10):1061-6. doi: 10.1001/jamaoto.2013.4759.
  13. Helps to maintain weight loss
    1. dieting alone is not sufficient for keeping the pounds off
    2. Exercise minimizes weight regain by burning fat before carbs
  14. Improves appearance
    1. improves posture & poise
    2. improves muscle definition
  15. Exercise during pregnancy may improve vascular function of OFFSPRING into adulthood. Experimental Physiology 25 October, 2013
  16. May reduce amounts of smoking done by a person
    1. craving for cigarettes is reduced during physical activity
      1. It isn't easy to do both
  17. Improves sleep
    1. get more rest with less sleep
    2. deeper levels of sleep
    3. get to sleep more quickly
    4. decreases narcolepsy (Principles of Polysomnography, 2002)
  18. Enhances sexual desire, performance and satisfaction
  19. Prevents gallstones
  20. Helps you overcome jet lag
  21. Aids in the birth process and postpartum recovery
    1. The body is better able to handle the physiological stresses of pregnancy, delivery and recovery afterwards
      1. note: Pregnant people should exercise throughout most of their pregnancy
  22. Helps relieve many of the common discomforts of pregnancy
    1. constipation, backache, heartburn, etc.
  23. May reduce risk of pregnancy complications (Hypertension, 2003; 41:1273-1280)
  24. Helps to combat substance abuse

  25. Can greatly reduce your risk of becoming dependent on alcohol (Steven B. Hammer, Christina L. Ruby, Allison J. Brager, Rebecca A. Prosser, John David Glass. Environmental Modulation of Alcohol Intake in Hamsters: Effects of Wheel-Running and Constant Light Exposure. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, 2010; DOI: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2010.01251.x)

  26. Helps you to incur fewer medical and health-care expenses
  27. Men who are physically active are less likely to experience erection problems. (December issue of IJCP, the International Journal of Clinical Practice)
  28. Reduces work days missed due to illness
  29. Increases productivity levels at work and school
  30. works to help regulate your circadian rhythm (Steven B. Hammer, Christina L. Ruby, Allison J. Brager, Rebecca A. Prosser, John David Glass. Environmental Modulation of Alcohol Intake in Hamsters: Effects of Wheel-Running and Constant Light Exposure. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, 2010; DOI: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2010.01251.x)
  31. Helps to maintain an independent lifestyle
  32. May help develop social development in such areas as:
    1. decision making skills
    2. observing role models
    3. moral development and reasoning skills
  33. Softens and tones the skin
  34. Improves overall quality of life
  35. You usually get out of the house and meet very nice people because people who exercise are usually very happy and very nice people

last update: 10/31/2013

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