Endurance training does not just build up your muscle mass and strength, it also provides unquestionable health benefits improving the overall way your body looks, feels and performs. Irrespective of where you do your training – in an expensive gym with a personal trainer, at home in front of a TV, or with YouTube video guides and dumbbells in your hands, your body is sure to show some obvious improvements.
What is Endurance Training?
Endurance training is the act of exercising in a way that increases the body’s ability to withstand activity for extended periods of time. In general, this type of exercise training refers to any type of activity that trains the aerobic energy system as opposed to the anaerobic energy system.
Your aerobic energy system is what allows you to sustain exercise for longer than 2 minutes. It produces far more ATP (the primary molecule that you derive energy from) than the other energy systems. However, your body cannot use the aerobic energy system to fuel high-intensity exercise because it cannot produce energy quickly enough.
To sustain high-intensity exercise (the type that makes you lose control of your breathing), we must illicit the help of the anaerobic energy systems to fuel the activity. This provides us with a faster source of ATP, but it comes with a major downside: we cannot rely on anaerobic energy systems for longer than about 2 minutes.
In other words, after we’ve sustained high-intensity activity for a couple of minutes, we tend to hit a “wall” that prevents us from maintaining that intensity without resting or decreasing the intensity of the activity.
For example, think about how long you can sprint for. 15-30 seconds at max intensity, and perhaps a minute at about 80% intensity? After you have reached your limit for high-intensity exercise, you will spontaneously decrease your speed (intensity level) or just stop the activity all together. Your muscles will feel fatigued and overwhelmed with lactic acid, while you struggle to catch your breath.
On the other hand, think about what happens when you go for a jog or brisk walk. Your breathing rate may increase, and the activity may be a bit difficult at first, but once you find the right pace, you’ll feel like you can stay at that intensity level for much longer than a measly 1-2 minutes.
In general, any activity that you can sustain for longer than ~2 minutes will train your aerobic energy system which technically makes it a form of endurance training. In contrast, exercises that you cannot maintain at the same intensity for longer than ~2 minutes will predominantly be training your anaerobic energy systems.
You can combine both types of training (endurance and anaerobic) into one workout or keep them separate to get the benefits of both, but this is beyond the scope of this article. Let’s stay on track and take a closer look at the benefits of endurance training.
Healthy Lifestyle and Anti-Aging Benefits
Adopting a healthy lifestyle is the number one priority when you start endurance training, so you have to say bye to smoking and drinking heavily. You’ll thank me later for that anyway! Exercise improves the overall physical performance of your body in sports, everyday work, normal routines, as well as offering the advantage of aesthetics. As you continue to train using proper technique, your muscle mass will increase and you will notice a significant improvement in your balance and coordination. Not to mention, you will feel the obvious anti-aging effects of endurance training.
Growth In Bone Density
Have you ever read Arnold Schwarzenegger’s biography? He had a known bone deficiency, so he built up his muscle mass to help his bones grow and develop. By choosing diet and exercise to improve your health, you give your bones extra support and increase their density.
This in turn, helps prevent osteoporosis. If osteoporosis is dominant in your family history, you may want to consider taking this up. As you train, your body releases spikes of growth hormone into your bloodstream – allowing your bones to construct better density. As you grow older your bone density decreases and weakens, and a seemingly harmless slip can turn into a serious fracture. Keeping a solid training routine will facilitate looking young and feeling young.
Enhanced Immune System
No matter how strong you are, you can always fall defenseless against the multitude of viruses that attack our immune system by the thousands every year. Endurance training enhances your immune system by creating extra proteins necessary for production of white blood cells and antibodies. The anti-inflammatory effects of training are evident for those with chronic inflammatory disease. This is also noticeable in muscle soreness after training – as your body gets used to training, the delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) will decrease over time.
Preventing and controlling diabetes is also possible with training because it improves the body’s insulin sensitivity. Our body stores glucose in the muscles and by increasing your muscle mass, you also gain extra glucose storage. This will assist your body to keep glucose levels at a safe count.
We grow bigger as we grow older due to the decrease in metabolic processes. As a result, our body is able to burn fewer overall calories which stay with us in the form of round bellies. Training can really help this problem by the addition of muscle mass. As your muscle mass increases, it burns extra calories by producing the necessary acids to break down and expend the calories you consume. For every pound of lean muscle you gain, your body expends 70 calories more per day.
Because exercise increases blood circulation, it also delivers more oxygen to your brain, keeping your sanity in check and your body functional. It helps the body release stress, allows you to think clearly, and increases reaction times. Cortisol, better known as the “stress hormone”, is neutralized during exercise which can help out greatly with our sanity.
As you exercise regularly, you find yourself able to fall asleep faster, stay asleep throughout the night, increase the quality of your slumber, and feel more refreshed in the morning. On the plus side, all of us know that having a positive personal image will improve your self-esteem and confidence.
Putting It All Together – The Power of Adding Endurance Exercise to Your Life
By doing some form of endurance training a few times a week you will be able to reap all the benefits we talked about throughout this post, such as:
- Increased stamina for everyday activities
- Improved balance and coordination
- Muscle growth stimulation
- Osteoporosis prevention
- Improved bone density and strength
- Optimized immune system function
- Reduced insulin resistance and increased insulin sensitivity
- Boosted metabolism (via increased mass muscle)
- Better blood flow
- Improved mental health and sleep quality
- Increased self-confidence and self-esteem
- Enhanced cognitive function
- Accelerated health and weight loss results from dietary changes
What exactly do I mean by a few times a week? According to the CDC, adults need at least:
- 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity endurance activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week.
- 1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous-intensity endurance activity (i.e., jogging or running) every week.
- An equivalent mix of moderate- and vigorous-intensity endurance activity.
We recommend breaking this up into chunks that fit your lifestyle and current endurance levels. For example, if you are trying to fit endurance exercise into your schedule, simply add in a couple of 10-15 min brisk walks throughout the day whenever you can fit it in. From there, you can increase the intensity or the amount of time you exercise until you meet the recommendations above.
Also worth considering are exercise classes that incorporate weights, dancing, or other novel forms of movement. This can make increasing your aerobic activity levels more fun while you get the benefits of different forms of training.
Regardless of how you decide to fit your endurance activity in, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. Many of us hit the treadmill because we want to burn off that extra fat more quickly. However, this is one of the least efficient ways to lose weight.
Instead, it is best to focus your efforts on following a diet that helps you maintain a calorie deficit if you are trying to lose fat. This will force your body to tap into its stored fat for energy, allowing you to lose weight much more quickly than if you tried to jog/walk it off.
In other words, your diet is the meat and veggies of your health and weight loss results, and endurance exercise is the sauce that adds nice boost to your health but can never serve as a substitute for the whole meal.
Endurance Exercise on the Keto Diet
Endurance exercise and the keto diet go together wonderfully. Restricting carbs and calories forces you to burn more fat for fuel, which is exactly what you need to fuel endurance-type training.
Furthermore, by increasing your activity levels, you will encourage more fat and ketone burning, resulting in slightly more fat loss and higher ketone levels. This is a win-win for your exercise, weight loss, and health goals.
If you’d like to learn more about keto and exercise, we put together a comprehensive guide on the topic that you can find by clicking this link. This guide will help clear up most of the questions you may have about exercising while you are on the keto diet.