Aerobic exercise has a number of positive effects, from reducing health risks and maintaining healthy body weight, to managing chronic conditions and boosting mood. People who exercise aerobically may actually live longer than those who don't. Short-term effects of exercise are sometimes easier to notice, but several studies demonstrate that long-term effects exist that are just as desirable and beneficial.
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During aerobic exercise, you move the large muscles in your legs, hips and arms, and your body responds quickly by breathing faster and more deeply. Your heartbeat accelerates, increasing blood flow to your muscles and lungs. Capillaries widen to take more oxygen to your muscles and carry away carbon dioxide and lactic acid. Your body releases endorphins, which are natural painkillers that create an enhanced sense of well-being.
A study of long-term aerobic exercise on arterial stiffness in the elderly, reported in "Hypertension Research," a Japanese journal, in 2007, focused on the cardiovascular system. The participants were between 64 and 70 years of age and performed mild to moderate aerobic exercise for 30 minutes twice a week for six months. Both systolic and diastolic blood pressure significantly decreased after 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. There were significant decreases noted in arterial stiffness, systolic and diastolic blood pressure after the six-month exercise period, leading researchers to conclude that long-term aerobic exercise can benefit elderly people by improving their cardiovascular health.
The "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in 1995 reported a study on the effects of aerobic exercise and dietary carbohydrate on energy expenditure and body composition in obese women. The 12-week study followed 23 obese women assigned to aerobic exercise or no exercise and either a low-fat or low-carbohydrate diet. Diet composition did not significantly influence body composition or energy expenditure changes, but there was greater weight loss with a low-carb diet when compared to a low-fat diet. Adding aerobic exercise to a low-carb diet resulted in favorable effects on body composition, physical activity and total daily energy expenditure.
Mind is affected as much as body by aerobic exercise. A University of Missouri-Columbia study researched the long-term effects of aerobic exercise on psychological outcomes. Eighty-two participants completed depression, anxiety and self-concept inventories after a 12-week aerobic fitness program. The exercise participants showed a positive fitness change and psychological improvement at the end of the 12-week program, compared to the control group. At a one-year followup, psychological benefits showed a significant improvement from the baseline.