Raising your heart rate during exercise provides a variety of short- and long-term health and fitness benefits. Organizations such as the American Heart Association and the Mayo Clinic recommend physical activities that improve cardiovascular function for achieving such goals as weight loss and lowering cholesterol levels. Exercising at increasingly higher heart rates results in different physiological benefits and improved health.
Raising your heart rate to just 50 percent of your maximum results in 85 percent of the calories you burn coming from fat, according to exercise experts such as those at The Walking Site. If you are not quite ready to participate in aerobic exercise, which requires a higher intensity of work and more cardio-respiratory fitness, you still can burn fat by walking briskly or with activities such as cycling, swimming or skating, all of which can be done gently and without breaking much of a sweat. Exercising at a lower intensity burns fewer calories, but more of those calories come from fat.
Exercise requires your body to produce energy to perform the muscle movements you are doing. That energy is produced by burning calories, which can come from fat or glycogen (how your body stores carbohydrates). The higher your heart rate, the more calories you burn. The more calories you burn above the total you get from what you eat each day, the more weight you will lose or keep off.
Increased heart rates during exercise help you improve your stamina. Stamina often is referred to as your "energy level" and is a measurement of how long you can perform an activity, as opposed to how fast or how intensely you can do it. Each time you exercise, you improve V02 Max, a measurement of your maximum aerobic capacity. Once you reach V02 Max, you can continue to increase your exercise intensity without increasing your need for oxygen.
When you do anaerobic exercises, or high-intensity activity done for short periods, you must perform repeated repetitions of your activity, with rests in between, to strengthen your heart. Each of these rest periods allows your body a chance to recover and repair itself, making you stronger. Activities such as tennis, basketball and sprinting are examples of anerobic activities. The most fit tennis players are not the ones who can last the longest during a 20-second point--they are the ones who can recover the most by the time play resumes for the next point.
The Mayo Clinic recommends aerobic exercise to help fight cholesterol. In addition to diet, aerobic exercise can help raise your "good" cholesterol (high-density lipids) level and lower your bad cholesterol (low-density lipids).
Fewer Viral Infections
Aerobic exercise improves your immune system, according to the Mayo Clinic, and that helps you resist infections, such as colds and viruses.
- Mayo Clinic: Aerobic Exercise--Top 10 Reasons to get Physical
- Sport Fitness Advisor: VO2 Max, Aerobic Power& Maximal Oxygen Uptake
- The Walking Site: Your Target Heart Rate
- American College of Sports Medicine: Basic Recommendations From ACSM and American Heart Association
- Bay Area Medical Institute: Exercise--Getting Started