What is Aerobic Exercise and Why should I do it?
Definition of Aerobics:
Using the same large muscle group, rhythmically, for a period of 15 to 20 minutes or longer while maintaining 60-80% of your maximum heart rate.
Think of aerobic activity as being long in duration yet low in intensity. Aerobic activities include: walking, biking, jogging, swimming, aerobic classes and cross-country skiing. Anaerobic activity is short in duration and high in intensity. Anaerobic activities include: racquetball, downhill skiing, weight lifting, sprinting, softball, soccer and football.
Aerobic means with air or oxygen. You should be able to carry on a short conversation while doing aerobic exercise. If you are gasping for air while talking, you are probably working anaerobically. When you work anaerobically, you will tire faster and are more likely to experience sore muscles after exercise is over.
Aerobic exercise conditions the heart and lungs by increasing the oxygen available to the body and by enabling the heart to use oxygen more efficiently. Exercise alone cannot prevent or cure heart disease. It is only one factor in a total program of risk reduction; examples of other factors are high blood pressure, cigarette smoking and high cholesterol level.
Additional Benefits of Aerobic Exercise
In addition to cardiovascular benefits, other benefits of aerobic exercise include:
- Control of body fat. (Aerobic exercise in conjunction with strength training and a
proper diet will reduce body fat.)
- Increased resistance to fatigue and extra energy.
- Toned muscles and increased lean body mass.
- Decreased tension and aid in sleeping.
- Increased general stamina.
- Psychological benefits - exercise improves mood, reduces depression and anxiety.
Avoid the Aerobic Curve.
The aerobic curve occurs when you begin exercising, increase your intensity level, hit the high point and gradually decrease your intensity level. The goal when exercising aerobically is to hit your target heart rate and maintain it for the entire exercise session. This works the heart muscle more effectively and burns more calories. Think of riding a bike, running or swimming - you start, hit your pace (or target zone), then you maintain your pace until the cool down. As your heart becomes conditioned, you will have to work harder to reach the target zone. Less conditioned athletes will reach their target zones quickly because their heart muscle isn't used to the workload.
Aerobic Classes (step, hi/low, slide, interval etc...)
In an aerobic class, you can do moves in low intensity or high intensity. The level of intensity depends upon how high you bring your arms (not whether the class is low impact or high impact). Aerobic instructors should show class members how to do moves in high or low intensity. Participants should choose their own level of intensity dependent upon their level of fitness and how frequently they exercise.
If you are too tired to continue exercising in an aerobic class, march in place for a while until you can resume exercising. IT IS NOT OK to stop in the middle of an aerobic class because your body is sending extra blood to the muscles. Stopping suddenly can lead to muscle cramping and dizziness (this is why all aerobic classes have a cool down at the end of the aerobic section).
Cardiovascular fitness is an ongoing process and requires consistent reinforcement. To maintain your current level of fitness you should do aerobic exercise at least 3 times a week. To increase your level of fitness, try exercising 4 to 5 times per week.
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