Aerobic exercise is exercise for the heart. These forms of low-intensity, long-duration workout activity involving what are called "slow-twitch" muscle fibers build strength and endurance, rather than speed, focusing on sustained activity rather than short bursts. These exercises have a number of important health benefits. Heart rate increases and blood vessels widen. This not only delivers needed oxygen to the muscles- the source of the term "aerobic"—it helps carry away metabolic and respiratory waste products that build up in muscles, causing stiffness and soreness. Aerobic exercises release the endorphins that are responsible for the "runner’s high" people feel after working out.
These types of exercise help more than just heart and mood. Aerobics is the best for of exercise for weight loss—both getting it off and keeping it off, in conjunction with a proper diet. Doing aerobics can boost the immune system, help lower cholesterol, strengthen the heart, and keep blood pressure under control. That means that people who do aerobics are less prone to obesity, type 2 diabetes and a pre-diabetic condition called metabolic syndrome, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, and even some types of cancer. In addition, people who do aerobics are reported to have longer lifespans, and to be healthier and more active in their later years. At all ages, aerobic exercise builds stamina.
Aerobics can be particularly good exercise for people with certain conditions, including some that at first blush would seem unlikely candidates for benefiting from any sort of workout. Age-related macular degeneration is a condition in which the retina slowly becomes more and more damaged, eventually leading to blindness in people with the condition. It affects at least 2 million Americans over age 50, but experts say that aerobics can help slow this seemingly inexorable march. Aerobic exercise raises levels of a particular protein in the brain that appears to protect retinal cells, preventing people at risk for or in the early stages of macular degeneration from totally losing their sight.
Multiple sclerosis is another chronic condition that can be attenuated by aerobics. Half of all people with multiple sclerosis suffer memory loss. This appears to be a result of cell death in the brain, particularly in a region known as the hippocampus. Aerobic exercise provides a boost to the hippocampus, helping to mitigate this otherwise intractable problem. In a study, patients who had done aerobics had less damage in the hippocampus and showed better memory function after three months.