Endurance training – the benefits

Endurance training – the benefits

November 14, 2019

The benefits of endurance training

by our Sports Scientist Stephen Morehen

Last month we looked at the plethora of benefits that strength training can garner; this time around we will be taking a look at endurance training. In recent years, the month of November has become synonymous with some very questionable moustaches taking residency on the faces of men all over the world as they “grow a mo” in support of Movember  – a charity focussed on preventing male suicide and raising awareness of how important it is to take care of your mental health.

With that in mind, I wanted to highlight the positive psychological effects that endurance training can bring and in doing so, remind us all that mental health is just as important as physical health. After all, the World Health Organisation define “health” as:  “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” 

For the purpose of this blog, endurance training will refer to continuous steady-state exercise i.e. going for a run, getting out on the bike or jumping on the rowing machine, cross trainer or step-climber. All of these methods of exercise will increase your heart-rate and breathing-rate to a “steady-state” where your ability to supply the exercising muscles with oxygen meets their demand.

 

Physical health and mental health are considered to be mutually dependent and as such it would make sense that aerobic training will improve mental health alongside the numerous physical improvements which it can elicit, such as improved:

Endurance Training The Benefits

  • Cardiac function [1]
  • Body composition [2]
  • Risk of falls [3]
  • Strength [4]
  • Bone Density [5]

 

It is commonly reported that exercise releases endorphins, these chemicals interact with opioid receptors in the brain to alleviate sensations of pain as well as activating reward centres to elicit feelings of euphoria and positivity [6]. Indeed, even just single bouts of aerobic exercise have been shown to improve indices of mental health such as mood and self-esteem [7]. Furthermore, in both clinical and non-clinical populations, exercise training can significantly reduce depressive symptoms [8, 9].

As well as releasing endorphins, aerobic exercise has been shown to influence a pathway in the body called the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis which directly effects our physiological responses to stressful stimuli. Exercising “trains” this pathway to essentially cope with stress better meaning we are subsequently better equipped to deal with non-exercise stressors in our life. [10]

Exercise also provides an opportunity for improved social interaction with others. A lot of gyms nowadays come with exercise classes included in the membership fee, providing a great way to meet other individuals with similar interests and goals. Interaction with others is a basic human need and as such, participating in structured group exercise can have positive effects on mental health [11, 12].

Clearly exercise is good for the body and mind and more than ever it is imperative that we are taking care of both our physical and mental health. Something as simple as a brisk 30-minute walk can serve as a good starting point to increasing your activity levels. Why not have a look at what classes your local gym offers and signing up to something you’ve not tried before? You never know, you might just catch the bug!

References

  1. Nystoriak, M.A. and A. Bhatnagar, Cardiovascular Effects and Benefits of Exercise. Front Cardiovasc Med, 2018. 5: p. 135.
  2. Marandi, S.M., et al., Effects of intensity of aerobics on body composition and blood lipid profile in obese/overweight females. Int J Prev Med, 2013. 4(Suppl 1): p. S118-25.
  3. Shigematsu, R., et al., Dance-based aerobic exercise may improve indices of falling risk in older women. Age Ageing, 2002. 31(4): p. 261-6.
  4. Konopka, A.R. and M.P. Harber, Skeletal muscle hypertrophy after aerobic exercise training. Exerc Sport Sci Rev, 2014. 42(2): p. 53-61.
  5. Benedetti, M.G., et al., The Effectiveness of Physical Exercise on Bone Density in Osteoporotic Patients. Biomed Res Int, 2018. 2018: p. 4840531.
  6. Sprouse-Blum, A.S., et al., Understanding endorphins and their importance in pain management. Hawaii Med J, 2010. 69(3): p. 70-1.
  7. Ellis, N.J., J.A. Randall, and G. Punnett, The Effects of a Single Bout of Exercise on Mood and Self-Esteem in Clinically Diagnosed Mental Health Patients. Open Journal of Medical Psychology, 2013. 02(03): p. 81-85.
  8. Strohle, A., Physical activity, exercise, depression and anxiety disorders. J Neural Transm (Vienna), 2009. 116(6): p. 777-84.
  9. North, T.C., P. McCullagh, and Z.V. Tran, Effect of exercise on depression. Exerc Sport Sci Rev, 1990. 18: p. 379-415.
  10. Guszkowska, M., [Effects of exercise on anxiety, depression and mood]. Psychiatr Pol, 2004. 38(4): p. 611-20.
  11. Peluso, M.A. and L.H. Guerra de Andrade, Physical activity and mental health: the association between exercise and mood. Clinics (Sao Paulo), 2005. 60(1): p. 61-70.
  12. Street, G., R. James, and H. Cutt, The relationship between organised physical recreation and mental health. Health Promot J Austr, 2007. 18(3): p. 236-9.
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