It is becoming more well known that using different styles of training to improve fitness is beneficial…

I am a firm believer in sticking to this principle and advocate training variance. I don’t believe aerobic training should be the only style of training you do – that is unless you are a specialist in a sport. In fact, I used to be guilty of neglecting aerobic training in my own sessions. However, I soon learned that there are many benefits to aerobic training that I overlooked and now look to incorporate it 3-4 times a week.

Typically, aerobic training – or “cardio” – is the training style most people use to improve their fitness. This style of training is typically longer in duration and is typically (although doesn’t have to be) mono-structural, i.e. one movement. It normally takes the form of movements such as running, swimming, rowing or cycling. Whilst there are many different ways to work aerobically, a simple approach is to think sustained, repeatable efforts over extended duration.

Most people use aerobic training this as a way to improve lung capacity. However, benefits extend beyond that…

For example, research carried out in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning last year looked into the protective measures aerobic training may have on the body. The research was carried out with participants from military backgrounds. It looked to compare markers of muscle and liver injury and total antioxidant capacity in correlation with aerobic conditioning.

aerobic training

The study evaluated participants at three different intervals. Firstly, twelve hours prior to training, then 12 hours after a 30km march and finally 2 days after military style training. The military style training used body weight, resistance, speed, power, and agility exercises. It is worth noting that the participants were classified as having excellent aerobic capacity. However, the findings are still very interesting.

What this research found was that the participants suffered changes in markers after both styles. However, the whilst the military style training can cause liver and muscle injury, aerobic training may be a protective measure for this. Essentially, aerobic training may have the ability to protect against the extent of damage done to the body via other styles of training.

This has huge implications for recovery and performance. The less overall damage done to your body means the faster you will recover. This means you can go harder in your next session and progress faster. Therefore, incorporating aerobic training alongside other forms of training will help your body cope better with the stress it is put under.

The benefits of aerobic training also go beyond physical aspects…

So, it is fairly obvious that by training in any form you will see physical benefits. After all, you are performing a physical task. However, many people often overlook the benefits this can have on your mental state. Research has been carried out that investigates the effect of different exercise styles on mental health and this included aerobic training.

aerobic trainingThe research looked at just what dosage and intensity of exercise works best for treating depression. Participants were put through a training programme in different groups. Light exercise, moderate exercise (aerobic), intense exercise and a control group undergoing standard treatment. Results found that all forms of exercise improved participants mental health over the control group. Therefore, aerobic exercise is just as good as any other form of exercise for improving your mental health.

However, the implications may also have carry over for anyone’s mental health. This is especially relevant to those in competitive sports where the mental pressure is turned up a notch. Aerobic training may also help you cope with other life stresses such as work. So, you’ll be in a much better state of mind going about your daily routine.

You may also become a cyborg in the process…

Okay, so maybe I exaggerated a little bit with that one, however, aerobic training may at least allow you to push through that muscle burn pain barrier in training. In 2014 research was carried out to investigate the effects of aerobic exercise on pain tolerance. Yep, that’s right, being aerobically fit can help you tolerate more pain.

crossfit space

The study took a group of healthy individuals and put them through a 6 week aerobic training programme. The exercise of choice was cycling at 75% of their max oxygen consumption. It looked at their pain tolerance across various measures before and after the training cycle. One measure was when they had inadequate blood supply to a part of the body.  A little like during your workouts!

The findings indicated that this type of training will make you aerobically fitter – no surprise there. However, they also suggest that aerobic training increases pain tolerance when muscles are starved of oxygen. Therefore, aerobic training may help you push that but more towards the end of a workout!

Hopefully the above has started to explain why including aerobic training is a good idea. Most importantly, benefits to improve performance may be mental and physical. I’d love to know how you include aerobic training in your workouts and what your thoughts are on the topic – Let me know in the comments below!


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