Sunday, 14 July 2013

Benefits Of Aerobic Exercise And Guidelines To Ensure Your Workouts Are Really Aerobic

By Jasmine Greene

"Aerobics" was first coined by Dr. Kenneth Cooper, an exercise physiologist at San Antonio Air Force Hospital. He developed the formula of subtracting your age from 220 and exercising with the heart rate at 60-80% of that number. Though originally formulated to help astronauts, the benefits of "aerobics" made Dr. Cooper realize that this type of exercise is useful for everyone.

Since then the original formula has been improved upon, and studies have demonstrated more benefits of regular aerobic exercise, including:

*Weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight (Aerobic exercise burns fat!)

*More long-term, consistent energy & stamina

*Improved mood

*Pain relief (by natural endorphin production)

*Stronger heart & better circulation (keeps arteries clear and helps prevent heart disease)

*Better blood sugar control & adrenal health

*Lower blood pressure

*Stronger bones (weight bearing aerobic exercise helps prevent osteoporosis)

*Stronger immune system

*Longer life expectancy

If you're suffering from low energy, dwindling endurance, aches and pains, excessive body fat, stress, or if you crave sugar or carbs, chances are you're not getting enough aerobic exercise!

There are two basic criteria that set aerobic exercise apart from anaerobic: intensity and time. To exercise aerobically, your body must be at a very specific level of intensity, and you must maintain that level of intensity for at least thirty minutes at a time. If your heart rate is too low or too high (or variable), your exercise will become anaerobic instead.

In aerobic exercise, the body burns fat and converts it into energy. Because this process requires oxygen, it is called "aerobic." Aerobic exercise is useful for improving muscle endurance (allowing for hours or days of work without fatigue). This is extra important for the muscles which support posture, joints, and the arches of the feet. So insufficient aerobic exercise will raise the probability of joint problems, injuries, fallen arches, and low stamina.

In anaerobic exercise, the body burns sugar (glucose) for energy. No oxygen is required for this type of energy production. Burning sugar provides short term speed and power. Muscles cannot burn sugar for long, however, and so they fatigue quickly. Most people have no shortage of anaerobic exercise; even while seated, the body runs many tasks anaerobically, and virtually all sports are anaerobic due to their alternating bursts of high intensity (anaerobic) exercise and rest.

Dr. Phil Maffetone is an internationally recognized researcher who has greatly improved our understanding of aerobic exercise and endurance training. He studied many variables, including heart rate, gait, and muscle imbalances in many athletes before and after workouts. Dr. Maffetone discovered that the athletes who exercised using Dr. Cooper's original formula often ended up over-training and suffering from injuries, pain, joint problems, and distorted posture and body mechanics. His work led Dr. Maffetone to develop a new and improved formula for calculating each person's target heart rate for true aerobic exercise.

Follow these four simple steps to ensure you're training aerobically and enjoying all the benefits of aerobic exercise:

1. Invest in a heart rate monitor. It's just not a good idea to rely on the "feel" of a workout or to guess at whether your heart rate is too low or too high. There are many brands and models to choose from. Polar is an industry leader and is usually a safe bet. I recommend purchasing a model that has a chest strap as well as a wrist watch/display. If you work out in a gym rather than outdoors, invest in a model that is coded so that there is no electrical signal interference from other devices in the gym.

2. Calculate your maximum aerobic heart rate using Dr. Maffetone's formula. Simply subtract your age from 180. For example, a 32 year old who wants to exercise aerobically would have a maximum heart rate of 148 beats per minute. Modifiers and exceptions to this formula include:

*Subtract another 10 from the max heart rate if you're recovering from a major illness or surgery, or if you take any regular medications.

*Subtract another 5 from the max heart rate if: injured, have regressed in training or competition, suffer from more than two bouts of cold/flu per year, have allergies or asthma, just starting to train, or if you've been training inconsistently (Dr. Maffetone defined consistency as at least 4 times per week for 2 years).

*Add 5 to the max heart rate if you've trained consistently for more than 2 years without any injuries or problems and have made progress in competition.

*Add 10 to the max heart rate if you're over the age of 65.

*This formula does not apply to athletes 16 years old or younger. Best bet for these athletes is 165 as the max heart rate.

*If in doubt, choose the lower maximum heart rate.

3. Calculate your minimum aerobic heart rate by subtracting 10 from the max aerobic heart rate. For a healthy 34 year old, the max heart rate is 146 and the minimum is 136.

4. Walk, jog, bike or swim while wearing your heart rate monitor. Stay within your aerobic heart rate zone for at least 30 minutes at a time, and do this at least three times per week. I don't advise exceeding 90 minutes without a doctor's supervision.

As you will soon discover, it's amazingly easy to exercise aerobically. It doesn't take much effort to elevate your heart rate to the target zone. This is good news for couch potatoes (Talk about exercising smarter, not harder!), but can be frustrating for athletes who don't want to slow down. However, athletes must train aerobically to protect their bodies. The silver lining for athletes is that, as your heart becomes more aerobically fit, you'll be able to pick up the pace without exceeding the maximum aerobic heart rate. With the aid of your heart rate monitor, you'll soon also discover that any activity other than running, walking, cycling or swimming (at a constant pace) is likely to be anaerobic.

As a chiropractic doctor and acupuncturist, I've noticed substantial benefits for both myself and my patients who exercise aerobically each week. The immediate and long-term benefits are well worth the effort!

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