Humans evolved while moving, keeping their long limbs to survive and thrive. But modern life brought another huge change – lack of need to walk and run. We do not know yet what is the impact on our body’s health and to what degree does this change our body’s functioning.
Another unknown is how much oxygen does one’s body need in order to thrive. Western science measures blood’s oxygen saturation because it is critical for sustaining life but when it comes to quality of life, the question should be “how many units of oxygen does a body of a average size adult need in a period of 24 hours?”. We have no idea.
Chances are, our tissues and organs need more than what we get in our average 24 hour period when we don’t engage in aerobic exercise. This is because when sedatery, our breathing is shallow and uses a fraction of our lung capacity and while heart is moving blood at a very slow pace. Our body most likely needs more than that and this is why we need aerobic exercise.
Aerobic exercise used to be defined as “20 minutes of elevated and sustained heart rate”. Notice the key words “elevated” and “sustained” because that’s how we separate getting aerobic type of activity versus walking a dog or shopping in a mall. The later ones deliver steps but not the benefit of “pumping”. New research shows that as little as 7 minutes per day of aerobic exercise may be all we need. Examples of aerobic exercise are walking, jogging, running, rowing, riding a bicycle, swimming – doing repetitive movement exercise at a constant speed. This means yoga, dancing or martial arts are not aerobic exercise.
As we see in nature, no other land mammal runs only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Our modern life may be short on free time but that doesn’t mean that our body doesn’t need daily exercise. It operates on a 24 hour cycle and just as we need food, water, sleep and a bowel movement every day, we also need to make our heart and lungs pump daily. At least, that is what we should aim for as every so often life will make us skip a day.
Benefits of an-aerobic exercise are harder to quantify. Lifting weights, doing pilates or body weight exercise like yoga is beneficial but probably more as a stress relief, form of distraction and a meditation in movement. There certainly is a benefit in production of HGH (human growth hormone) as we increase our muscle strength. But it is hard to tell weather this too should be done at daily frequency and to what extent /age. It seems like an-aerobic exercise is a game of diminishing returns and possibly not as important as a daily aerobic activity. Looking at lifestyles of communities of people over a 100 years old, we see daily aerobic activity but rarely any an-aerobic exercise.