The benefits of physical activity
It is useful to make a clear distinction between aerobic exercise and anaerobic exercise; two ways of training with different characteristics and different benefits.
Prof. Gianluca Melegatti, specialist in physical therapy and rehabilitation and Sports Medicine:
“What separates them, first of all, is the kind of energy used --. During aerobic activity the body uses its glycogen stores as its primary energy source before drawing on stored fats. During this process the “fuel” used to start this combustion is oxygen and is delivered to the muscles by the cardiovascular system. During anaerobic training, however, the body needs readily available energy which it uses immediately without the aid of oxygen. Aerobic activity is characterized by moderate intensity for a prolonged period, at least 20 minutes. Examples are speed walking, jogging, swimming, cycling and cross country skiing. Anaerobic exercise entails high intensity efforts over short periods of time, generally several seconds or at the most some minutes”.
Sport: adaptations and changes in the body
While detecting the changes sport causes in the musculoskeletal system is fairly straight forward, the same cannot be said for the other parts of the body. We need to be aware that physical activity involves all the body’s systems. They undergo modifications and adaptations in a direct response to the stress they are put under. The organ most affected by this process is the heart. In cyclists in particular, as in all those who dedicate themselves to endurance training, you can see what is called “an athlete’s heart”. This is a particular tropism of the organ, meaning increased volume and a thickening of the cardiac walls, especially in the left ventricle which is able to push out more blood with each contraction. Typically, this hypertrophy results in a lower resting heart rate.
We will go over all of these in more detail in the dedicated sections. Generally speaking, aerobic activity encourages your body as a whole to maintain a good level of metabolic activity, while anaerobic activity allows you to control and improve diseases of the musculoskeletal system. The positive effects on stress, anxiety and depression are clear and have been proven for both types of activity. To briefly mention some additional macroscopic benefits, the three common diseases which are positively affected by physical activity are: high blood pressure, obesity and noninsulin-dependent diabetes, Type II.
Aerobic exercise helps control these frequently occurring diseases, even in the case of low impact activity. It lowers the production of LDL cholesterol and increases HDL cholesterol, improving glycemic control and arterial pressure.