Thriving Together Series: The Well-Being Benefits of Aerobic Exercise

man running aerobic exercise

By: Oladipo Eddo, PhD., CSCS, USAW, ACSM EP, Assistant Professor in Mason’s School of Kinesiology

Aerobic exercise can strengthen your body and mind in ways that increase your overall well-being. The evidence is clear that aerobic activity offers powerful health benefits. Running and walking are two simple ways to start enjoying the well-being benefits of aerobic exercise.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being – not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. However, the absence of health is marked with detrimental consequences and accompanied by comorbidities. Physical fitness refers to a person’s ability to carry out daily tasks with vigor and alertness, without undue fatigue, and with ample energy to enjoy leisure pursuits and meet unforeseen emergencies, according to American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) guidelines. Physical fitness is associated with optimal body composition, aerobic fitness, musculoskeletal strength, endurance, and flexibility. Other benefits of engaging in regular physical activity include decreased anxiety and depression, improved cognitive function, and enhanced feelings of well-being, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports.

Current guidelines suggest that you should accrue a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity weekly. You can meet weekly exercise recommendations with incremental bouts of activity that are not shorter than 10 minutes. Additionally, guidelines recommend resistance training twice a week, focusing on muscular strength and endurance.

Despite these recommendations, the prevalence of obesity has steadily increased over the past few decades. As of 2017-2018, 42.5% and 73.6% of the U.S. adult population were classified as obese and overweight respectively. Physical inactivity report in the Unites States suggests that 51.6% of the adult population meets aerobic activity guidelines, 29.3% of adults meet resistance training guidelines, and only 20.6% of adults meet both. These statistics are all related.

The benefits of physical activity/exercise are not just attributable to physical fitness. They are also associated with improved health. Exercise is Medicine (EIM) is a recognized solution for improved health and patient outcomes, to lower healthcare costs for the patient by linking available preventative and treatment resources. EIM creates a network and allows for access and continuing communication between the individual, his or her physician, and fitness professional. The impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on physical activity cannot be ignored. Results from an international online survey reported that there was a 33.5% reduction in weekly minutes of physical activity and a 28.6% increase in sitting time when pre-pandemic lifestyle behaviors were compared to habits during the pandemic.

Walking and running are common forms of physical activity/exercise that are associated with minimal cost and require no equipment or special facility. These modes of physical activity/exercise are especially effective as we continue to adjust to our new normal. While both are recognized for their benefit to cardiorespiratory fitness, they are associated with numerous other health and fitness benefits.

Practice: Mason Nation Thriving Together Virtual 5K

The Mason Nation Thriving Together 5K provides a perfect opportunity for adopting new lifestyle habits or renewing your current ones. Plan to participate anytime during the weekend of October 15 to 17. In addition to joining a thriving community and supporting Mason students in need, you’ll gain access to a training guide, plan, and tips to help prepare you. The training guide provides resistance training programs for individuals at all levels: beginners, intermediate, or advanced. It focuses on addressing strength and endurance needs for completing a 5K, and includes movements that help decrease the likelihood of running-related injuries. The 6-week training plan is an aerobic conditioning program designed to progressively guide you to successfully participate and complete the 5K event.

Additional Resources

Register now for the 2021 Mason Nation Thriving Together 5K and plan to participate anytime during the weekend of October 15 to 17.

Register for Mason BurnAlong, which offers the Mason community free access to hundreds of on-demand well-being classes online — including many fitness classes.

Learn more about the well-being benefits of walking in this Thriving Together article.

Learn more about finding a fitness community in this Thriving Together article.

Write one of these Thriving Together Series features! We’re looking for contributions on all topics related to well-being. Contact us at cwb@gmu.edu for guidelines. Thank you for helping our Mason community thrive together online!