Scientific Benefits of Exercise [Research Review]

Posted on 21 May, 2021 by Nicholas Rizzo

In 2021, we began a project dedicating a significant amount of time towards researching the scientific benefits of exercise for your health. Reading, reviewing, analyzing, and reporting the findings of hundreds of studies showing how everything from regular physical activity to working out benefits you. 

Cardio

Cardio benefits your heart health significantly. When analyzing how different forms of aerobic exericse improved heart health, the studies showed significant improvements in risk of heart diseases, strokes, and blood pressure.

In fact, a year of regular high intensity cardio showed improved lipid panels with:

  • 11.2-17.3% reductions in triglycerides
  • 3.6-4.5% reduction in LDL cholesterol
  • 5.8-8.6% increases in HDL cholesterol

Walking

Walking is the easiest, cheapest, and most accessible form of exercise available. Despite this and being a low-intensity aerobic activity, the benefits of walking are immense. In fact, just by starting a daily walking routine, research has shown:

  • Not taking daily walks puts you at a 1.2x greater risk of dying in comparison to those that do
  • Those that walk 8,000 steps a day have a 51% lower all-cause mortality compared to those taking just 4,000 steps or lower
  • Deaths from all causes reduce by 65% by walking 12,000 steps a day
  • 10,000 steps a day lowers the risk of developing diabetes by 5.5%
  • People who walk 3+ miles per day are 53% less likely to have dementia - just walking 10 blocks is enough to decrease dementia risk by 25%

Biking

Riding a bike is a form of cardio that is also well known to significantly improve lower body strength, muscle, and endurance, all while helping you lose weight.

The benefits of biking are unique when considering it as a replacement for transportation to work. The research has shown taking your bike to work daily can result in:

  • 3.5-3.8% lower incidence of myocardial infarction
  • 11-18% lower risk of coronary heart disease
  • 1.7% less likley to suffer from heart attacks
  • Being 20% less likely to suffer from depression than other co-workers
  • Average loss of 15 lbs over two years of commuting to work via bike

High intensity interval training

HIIT is most well known for it's benefits towards fat loss while also significantly improving your physical fitness, muscle, strength, and conditioning. What's unique about HIIT is that it can be applied to any form of exercise, being able to be done with running, cycling, climbing, and strength workouts. 

The research showed some of the top benefits of HIIT were:

  • 9.8 weeks of HIIT led to an average 1.64% loss in body fat
  • HIIT was shown to be 36.34% more effective at burning body fat over ~10 weeks than moderate intensity continuous training (MICT)
  • Increases in human growth hormone by 450% post-exercise
  • Improvements in upper body strength by as much as 67.8% in 8 weeks

Rowing

Rowing is a unique form of cardio that also doubles as an effective full-body strength training exercise. In fact, it has been shown to engage about 65-75% of the lower body and 25-35% of the upper body. Therefore, there are some unique benefits of rowing in comparison to other forms of cardio - specifically research shows it improves:

  • Back muscle strength by 37.8% in 8 weeks
  • Grip strength up to 36.6% in 6 weeks
  • Vertical jump height by 19.4% in 6 weeks

Jumping Rope

This school-yard activity is also a great form of physical activity that has significant lower body benefits. The high-intensity, reptitive jumping movement of this exercise lends itself to some results that other forms of exercise don't. Specifically, the research shows some of the unique benefits of jumping rope being:

  • Run 3.3% faster by jumping rope 3 days a week for 10 weeks
  • Agility increases by 8.9% in 15 weeks
  • Lower body fat by 8.9% and BMI by 4.3-5.7% in just 12 weeks
  • Jump 49% higher after 15 weeks 
  • Bone density increases 11-18% after 24 weeks
  • Just 10 minutes a day of skipping rope produces the same cardiovascular benefits of jogging for 30 minutes.

Strength training

Building strength and muscle through weight training is not only beneficial, it is suggested you do it at least twice a week by goverment physical activity guidelines. One population that weight training is specifically beneficial for are older adults and seniors. In our meta-analysis on the benefits of strength training for seniors and older adults, we found that:

  • Strength training is the best way to prevent age-related muscle loss and sarcopenia that naturally occurs with age
  • Prevents age-related declines in neuromuscular functioning and significant improvements in balance, movement control, mobility, and flexibility - all of which significantly reduces fall-risk factors
  • Resistance training helped older adults prevent declines in overall brain health, cognitive function, memory, and learning capabilities
  • Lifting weights for seniors led to significant reductions in depression, stress, anxiety, and improved their self-esteem, self-perception, body satisfaction, and overall life satisfaction

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Use of content

  • If the Benefits of Cardio piqued your interest and you want to know more, you can reach out to Nick Rizzo at nick@runrepeat.com. He’d be happy to answer any queries. He’s also available for interviews.
  • Data from this analysis is free to use for any online publication. We only request that you link back to this original source.
Author
Nicholas Rizzo
Nicholas Rizzo

Nick combines 10+ years of experience in the health and fitness industry and a background in the sciences in his role as the Fitness Research Director. During his competitive powerlifting years his PRs have him sitting in the top 2% of bench presses (395 lbs), top 3% of squats (485 lbs) and top 6% of deadlifts (515 lbs) for his weight and age. His work has been featured on Bodybuilding.com, LiveStrong, Healthline, WebMD, WashingtonPost, and many more. Along the way, collaborating with industry leaders like Michael Yessis, Mark Rippetoe, Carlo Buzzichelli, Dave Tate, Ray Williams, and Joel Seedman.