10 Longevity Benefits of Aerobic Training

In a nutshell

  1. Regular physical activity, specifically aerobic exercise, is a powerful lifestyle choice that can significantly increase life expectancy, even beyond the influence of genetic factors.
  2. Aerobic training has a wide-ranging impact on various body systems and organs, leading to improved health and longer life.
  3. We list ten main benefits of incorporating regular aerobic practices into your daily life.

As you embark on the journey to achieve optimal health and wellness, aerobic training plays a crucial role in unlocking the secrets to a longer, more fulfilling life.

Remarkably, scientific research unequivocally demonstrates that physical activity is a potent lifestyle intervention that can significantly extend life expectancy, even surpassing the influence of our genetic makeup.1 Posis AIB, Bellettiere J, Salem RM, LaMonte MJ, Manson JE, Casanova R, LaCroix AZ, Shadyab AH. Associations of Accelerometer-Measured Physical Activity and Sedentary Time With All-Cause Mortality by Genetic Predisposition for Longevity. J Aging Phys Act. 2022 Aug 24;31(2):265-275. doi: 10.1123/japa.2022-0067. PMID: 36002033; PMCID: PMC9950283. PubMed Source Aerobic training plays a pivotal role as an integral component of a well-rounded physical activity regimen. The effect of aerobic exercise on life expectancy can also be explained by the molecular changes happening during this type of activity. We go deeper into these mechanisms in The Power of Exercise in Reversing Cellular Aging and Promoting Longevity.

In this article, we will explore how aerobic training improves and optimizes systems and organ functions in your body, promoting overall health and potentially extending your lifespan.

1. Improved Cardiovascular Health


Your heart is a powerful muscle, and like any other muscle in your body, it needs regular exercise to stay healthy and strong. Aerobic training, also known as cardiovascular exercise (simply cardio), involves activities that increase your heart rate, such as jogging, swimming, cycling, or dancing. These activities have been shown to strengthen the heart muscle, improving its ability to pump blood more efficiently throughout your body.2 Fletcher GF, Balady GJ, Amsterdam EA, Chaitman B, Eckel R, Fleg J, Froelicher VF, Leon AS, Piña IL, Rodney R, Simons-Morton DA, Williams MA, Bazzarre T. Exercise standards for testing and training: a statement for healthcare professionals from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2001 Oct 2;104(14):1694-740. doi: 10.1161/hc3901.095960. PMID: 11581152. PubMed Source

By engaging in regular aerobic exercise, you can significantly reduce your risk of developing heart diseases, including coronary artery disease and heart failure.3 Myers, Jonathan. “Exercise and Cardiovascular Health.” Circulation 107 (2003): 2-5. Source Studies have found that individuals who participate in moderate to vigorous aerobic training have a lower risk of cardiovascular mortality, ultimately contributing to an increased life expectancy.4 Swain DP, Franklin BA. Comparison of cardioprotective benefits of vigorous versus moderate intensity aerobic exercise. Am J Cardiol. 2006 Jan 1;97(1):141-7. doi: 10.1016/j.amjcard.2005.07.130. Epub 2005 Nov 16. PMID: 16377300. PubMed Source


2. Enhanced Respiratory Function


In addition to its cardiovascular benefits, aerobic training plays a vital role in maintaining and improving lung function. Regular aerobic exercise increases your lung capacity, allowing you to take in more oxygen with each breath.5 Kuder MM, Clark M, Cooley C, Prieto-Centurion V, Danley A, Riley I, Siddiqi A, Weller K, Kitsiou S, Nyenhuis SM. A Systematic Review of the Effect of Physical Activity on Asthma Outcomes. J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2021 Sep;9(9):3407-3421.e8. doi: 10.1016/j.jaip.2021.04.048. Epub 2021 May 6. PMID: 33964510; PMCID: PMC8434961. PubMed Source Enhanced respiratory function ensures your body receives an adequate supply of oxygen, which is essential for optimal health and longevity.

As you engage in aerobic activities, your respiratory muscles become stronger, allowing you to breathe more efficiently. Improved lung function not only contributes to better overall health but also lowers the risk of respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which can negatively impact life expectancy.6 Hirayama F, Lee AH, Hiramatsu T. Life-long physical activity involvement reduces the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a case-control study in Japan. J Phys Act Health. 2010 Sep;7(5):622-6. doi: 10.1123/jpah.7.5.622. PMID: 20864757. PubMed Source

3. Weight Management and Reduced Obesity


Aerobic training is a powerful tool in the fight against obesity and maintaining a healthy weight. Regular aerobic exercise helps you burn calories and increase your metabolic rate, making it an effective weight loss and management strategy.7 Swift DL, Johannsen NM, Lavie CJ, Earnest CP, Church TS. The role of exercise and physical activity in weight loss and maintenance. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2014 Jan-Feb;56(4):441-7. doi: 10.1016/j.pcad.2013.09.012. Epub 2013 Oct 11. PMID: 24438736; PMCID: PMC3925973. PubMed Source

Obesity has been linked to a myriad of health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers, all of which can shorten your lifespan. Incorporating aerobic exercise into your daily routine, you can maintain a healthy weight and extend your life expectancy.


4. Prevention and Management of Chronic Diseases


The benefits of aerobic training extend beyond weight management and heart health, playing a significant role in preventing and managing chronic diseases. Studies have shown that regular aerobic exercise can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and certain cancers.8 Hu FB, Sigal RJ, Rich-Edwards JW, Colditz GA, Solomon CG, Willett WC, Speizer FE, Manson JE. Walking compared with vigorous physical activity and risk of type 2 diabetes in women: a prospective study. JAMA. 1999 Oct 20;282(15):1433-9. doi: 10.1001/jama.282.15.1433. PMID: 10535433. PubMed Source 9 Friedenreich CM, Orenstein MR. Physical activity and cancer prevention: etiologic evidence and biological mechanisms. J Nutr. 2002 Nov;132(11 Suppl):3456S-3464S. doi: 10.1093/jn/132.11.3456S. PMID: 12421870. PubMed Source

In addition to prevention, aerobic training has been found to improve the quality of life for individuals living with chronic conditions, promoting better disease management and potentially extending life expectancy.10 Pedersen BK, Saltin B. Exercise as medicine – evidence for prescribing exercise as therapy in 26 different chronic diseases. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2015 Dec;25 Suppl 3:1-72. doi: 10.1111/sms.12581. PMID: 26606383. PubMed Source By engaging in regular aerobic training, you can lower your risk of developing these life-shortening conditions.

5. Improved Mental Health and Stress Reduction


Your mental health is a critical component of overall well-being and longevity. Aerobic exercise has been proven to have a positive impact on mental health by reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression.11 Mammen G, Faulkner G. Physical activity and the prevention of depression: a systematic review of prospective studies. Am J Prev Med. 2013 Nov;45(5):649-57. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2013.08.001. PMID: 24139780. PubMed Source 12Boecker H, Sprenger T, Spilker ME, Henriksen G, Koppenhoefer M, Wagner KJ, Valet M, Berthele A, Tolle TR. The runner’s high: opioidergic mechanisms in the human brain. Cereb Cortex. 2008 Nov;18(11):2523-31. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhn013. Epub 2008 Feb 21. PMID: 18296435. PubMed Source As you participate in aerobic activities, your brain releases endorphins, which are natural mood elevators that create a sense of well-being and happiness.

Stress reduction is another essential factor in promoting longevity. Chronic stress can harm your body in many ways, impairing immune function and increasing the risk of chronic diseases.13 Cohen S, Janicki-Deverts D, Miller GE. Psychological stress and disease. JAMA. 2007 Oct 10;298(14):1685-7. doi: 10.1001/jama.298.14.1685. PMID: 17925521. PubMed Source Aerobic exercise is an effective strategy for managing stress, helping you maintain a healthier, more balanced lifestyle.

6. Boosted Immune System


A robust immune system is your body’s first line of defense against infections and diseases. Engaging in regular aerobic exercise can enhance your immune function, making you more resilient in the face of potential health threats.14 Nieman DC. Immune response to heavy exertion. J Appl Physiol (1985). 1997 May;82(5):1385-94. doi: 10.1152/jappl.1997.82.5.1385. PMID: 9134882. PubMed Source As you participate in aerobic activities, your body increases the circulation of immune cells, improving their ability to detect and combat harmful pathogens.

Research has shown that moderate aerobic exercise can boost the production of antibodies and stimulate the release of anti-inflammatory cytokines, strengthening your immune response.15 Woods JA, Vieira VJ, Keylock KT. Exercise, inflammation, and innate immunity. Neurol Clin. 2006 Aug;24(3):585-99. doi: 10.1016/j.ncl.2006.03.008. PMID: 16877125.PubMed Source So, by incorporating aerobic training into your routine, you can bolster your immune system, and decrease your risk of illness.

7. Enhanced Cognitive Function and Brain Health


Aerobic training doesn’t just benefit your body; it can also profoundly impact your brain health. Studies have demonstrated that regular aerobic exercise can improve cognitive abilities such as memory, attention, and problem-solving skills.16 Colcombe S, Kramer AF. Fitness effects on the cognitive function of older adults: a meta-analytic study. Psychol Sci. 2003 Mar;14(2):125-30. doi: 10.1111/1467-9280.t01-1-01430. PMID: 12661673. PubMed Source Exercise has been found to increase the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that supports the growth and survival of neurons, promoting brain plasticity and overall cognitive function.17 Cotman CW, Berchtold NC. Exercise: a behavioral intervention to enhance brain health and plasticity. Trends Neurosci. 2002 Jun;25(6):295-301. doi: 10.1016/s0166-2236(02)02143-4. PMID: 12086747. PubMed Source

By engaging in consistent aerobic exercise, you can help maintain your brain health as you age, reducing the risk of cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.18 Hamer M, Chida Y. Physical activity and risk of neurodegenerative disease: a systematic review of prospective evidence. Psychol Med. 2009 Jan;39(1):3-11. doi: 10.1017/S0033291708003681. Epub 2008 Jun 23. PMID: 18570697. PubMed Source

8. Increased Muscle Strength and Flexibility


Aerobic training offers more than just cardiovascular benefits; it also improves muscle strength, endurance, and flexibility. Regular aerobic activities such as running, swimming, or dancing can help maintain and enhance muscle tone, ensuring your body remains strong and functional as you age.

Moreover, aerobic exercise can improve your flexibility by keeping your joints and muscles limber, reducing the risk of injury and enhancing your overall physical health.19 Mills EM. The effect of low-intensity aerobic exercise on muscle strength, flexibility, and balance among sedentary elderly persons. Nurs Res. 1994 Jul-Aug;43(4):207-11. PMID: 8047424. PubMed Source

9. Improved Sleep Quality


Quality sleep is essential for overall health and well-being, and aerobic exercise has been proven to be an effective strategy for improving sleep quality.20 Kredlow MA, Capozzoli MC, Hearon BA, Calkins AW, Otto MW. The effects of physical activity on sleep: a meta-analytic review. J Behav Med. 2015 Jun;38(3):427-49. doi: 10.1007/s10865-015-9617-6. Epub 2015 Jan 18. PMID: 25596964. PubMed Source Research has shown that individuals who engage in regular aerobic exercise tend to experience better sleep quality and longer sleep duration, as well as reduced daytime sleepiness and sleep onset latency.

Better sleep can enhance physical and mental health, reducing the risk of chronic diseases and promoting overall well-being.


10. Social Engagement and Community Involvement


Participating in aerobic activities, such as group classes or team sports, allows for connecting with others and engaging in social interactions. Social support and community involvement have been linked to improved mental well-being, reduced risk of depression, and overall well-being. Strong social networks can provide emotional support, motivation, and accountability, making it easier to maintain a consistent exercise routine.

Moreover, research has demonstrated that strong social connections can positively impact longevity.21 Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Layton JB. Social relationships and mortality risk: a meta-analytic review. PLoS Med. 2010 Jul 27;7(7):e1000316. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316. PMID: 20668659; PMCID: PMC2910600. PubMed Source So, by participating in aerobic activities that promote social engagement and community involvement, you can benefit from the mental health advantages and contribute to a longer, happier life.


Recap and final thoughts

The benefits of aerobic training for longevity are vast, encompassing improvements in cardiovascular health, respiratory function, weight management, chronic disease prevention, mental health, immune function, cognitive function, muscle strength, sleep quality, and social engagement.

Incorporating aerobic exercise into your daily routine can unlock the potential for a longer, healthier, and more fulfilling life. If you want to learn more about different types of aerobic exercises and their minimal effective dose, please see “10 Aerobic Exercises to Add to Your Routine for Improved Longevity”.

References

  • 1
    Posis AIB, Bellettiere J, Salem RM, LaMonte MJ, Manson JE, Casanova R, LaCroix AZ, Shadyab AH. Associations of Accelerometer-Measured Physical Activity and Sedentary Time With All-Cause Mortality by Genetic Predisposition for Longevity. J Aging Phys Act. 2022 Aug 24;31(2):265-275. doi: 10.1123/japa.2022-0067. PMID: 36002033; PMCID: PMC9950283. PubMed Source
  • 2
    Fletcher GF, Balady GJ, Amsterdam EA, Chaitman B, Eckel R, Fleg J, Froelicher VF, Leon AS, Piña IL, Rodney R, Simons-Morton DA, Williams MA, Bazzarre T. Exercise standards for testing and training: a statement for healthcare professionals from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2001 Oct 2;104(14):1694-740. doi: 10.1161/hc3901.095960. PMID: 11581152. PubMed Source
  • 3
    Myers, Jonathan. “Exercise and Cardiovascular Health.” Circulation 107 (2003): 2-5. Source
  • 4
    Swain DP, Franklin BA. Comparison of cardioprotective benefits of vigorous versus moderate intensity aerobic exercise. Am J Cardiol. 2006 Jan 1;97(1):141-7. doi: 10.1016/j.amjcard.2005.07.130. Epub 2005 Nov 16. PMID: 16377300. PubMed Source
  • 5
    Kuder MM, Clark M, Cooley C, Prieto-Centurion V, Danley A, Riley I, Siddiqi A, Weller K, Kitsiou S, Nyenhuis SM. A Systematic Review of the Effect of Physical Activity on Asthma Outcomes. J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2021 Sep;9(9):3407-3421.e8. doi: 10.1016/j.jaip.2021.04.048. Epub 2021 May 6. PMID: 33964510; PMCID: PMC8434961. PubMed Source
  • 6
    Hirayama F, Lee AH, Hiramatsu T. Life-long physical activity involvement reduces the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a case-control study in Japan. J Phys Act Health. 2010 Sep;7(5):622-6. doi: 10.1123/jpah.7.5.622. PMID: 20864757. PubMed Source
  • 7
    Swift DL, Johannsen NM, Lavie CJ, Earnest CP, Church TS. The role of exercise and physical activity in weight loss and maintenance. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2014 Jan-Feb;56(4):441-7. doi: 10.1016/j.pcad.2013.09.012. Epub 2013 Oct 11. PMID: 24438736; PMCID: PMC3925973. PubMed Source
  • 8
    Hu FB, Sigal RJ, Rich-Edwards JW, Colditz GA, Solomon CG, Willett WC, Speizer FE, Manson JE. Walking compared with vigorous physical activity and risk of type 2 diabetes in women: a prospective study. JAMA. 1999 Oct 20;282(15):1433-9. doi: 10.1001/jama.282.15.1433. PMID: 10535433. PubMed Source
  • 9
    Friedenreich CM, Orenstein MR. Physical activity and cancer prevention: etiologic evidence and biological mechanisms. J Nutr. 2002 Nov;132(11 Suppl):3456S-3464S. doi: 10.1093/jn/132.11.3456S. PMID: 12421870. PubMed Source
  • 10
    Pedersen BK, Saltin B. Exercise as medicine – evidence for prescribing exercise as therapy in 26 different chronic diseases. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2015 Dec;25 Suppl 3:1-72. doi: 10.1111/sms.12581. PMID: 26606383. PubMed Source
  • 11
    Mammen G, Faulkner G. Physical activity and the prevention of depression: a systematic review of prospective studies. Am J Prev Med. 2013 Nov;45(5):649-57. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2013.08.001. PMID: 24139780. PubMed Source
  • 12
    Boecker H, Sprenger T, Spilker ME, Henriksen G, Koppenhoefer M, Wagner KJ, Valet M, Berthele A, Tolle TR. The runner’s high: opioidergic mechanisms in the human brain. Cereb Cortex. 2008 Nov;18(11):2523-31. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhn013. Epub 2008 Feb 21. PMID: 18296435. PubMed Source
  • 13
    Cohen S, Janicki-Deverts D, Miller GE. Psychological stress and disease. JAMA. 2007 Oct 10;298(14):1685-7. doi: 10.1001/jama.298.14.1685. PMID: 17925521. PubMed Source
  • 14
    Nieman DC. Immune response to heavy exertion. J Appl Physiol (1985). 1997 May;82(5):1385-94. doi: 10.1152/jappl.1997.82.5.1385. PMID: 9134882. PubMed Source
  • 15
    Woods JA, Vieira VJ, Keylock KT. Exercise, inflammation, and innate immunity. Neurol Clin. 2006 Aug;24(3):585-99. doi: 10.1016/j.ncl.2006.03.008. PMID: 16877125.PubMed Source
  • 16
    Colcombe S, Kramer AF. Fitness effects on the cognitive function of older adults: a meta-analytic study. Psychol Sci. 2003 Mar;14(2):125-30. doi: 10.1111/1467-9280.t01-1-01430. PMID: 12661673. PubMed Source
  • 17
    Cotman CW, Berchtold NC. Exercise: a behavioral intervention to enhance brain health and plasticity. Trends Neurosci. 2002 Jun;25(6):295-301. doi: 10.1016/s0166-2236(02)02143-4. PMID: 12086747. PubMed Source
  • 18
    Hamer M, Chida Y. Physical activity and risk of neurodegenerative disease: a systematic review of prospective evidence. Psychol Med. 2009 Jan;39(1):3-11. doi: 10.1017/S0033291708003681. Epub 2008 Jun 23. PMID: 18570697. PubMed Source
  • 19
    Mills EM. The effect of low-intensity aerobic exercise on muscle strength, flexibility, and balance among sedentary elderly persons. Nurs Res. 1994 Jul-Aug;43(4):207-11. PMID: 8047424. PubMed Source
  • 20
    Kredlow MA, Capozzoli MC, Hearon BA, Calkins AW, Otto MW. The effects of physical activity on sleep: a meta-analytic review. J Behav Med. 2015 Jun;38(3):427-49. doi: 10.1007/s10865-015-9617-6. Epub 2015 Jan 18. PMID: 25596964. PubMed Source
  • 21
    Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Layton JB. Social relationships and mortality risk: a meta-analytic review. PLoS Med. 2010 Jul 27;7(7):e1000316. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316. PMID: 20668659; PMCID: PMC2910600. PubMed Source
Share this guide!