Spring is upon us, and summer is not far behind. Exercise is on
many of our minds, but there are so many different modes, how do
you know which is right for what you want to accomplish. Let
’s talk about aerobic (cardiovascular) exercise. What is it and
what are its benefits?
Spring is upon us, and summer is not far behind. Exercise is on many of our minds, but there are so many different modes, how do you know which is right for what you want to accomplish.

Let’s talk about aerobic (cardiovascular) exercise. What is it and what are its benefits?

Aerobic exercise strengthens the heart, which is the strongest and most important muscle in your body. And, like any other muscle, the more you work it, the stronger it becomes. If you do not continually work on strengthening your muscles, they will weaken.

The term “aerobic” was made popular in the late 1960s by Dr. Kenneth Cooper. It comes from the Greek root “aero” which means air and “bios” which means life. And since science has shown that this type of exercise aids in the prevention of heart disease, it has also become known as “cardiovascular” training. It is also effective for maintaining healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

The premise behind training aerobically is that oxygen is continuously being delivered to the muscles, which helps them function more efficiently.

Aerobic exercise involves using large muscle groups for an extended period of time, i.e. 20–60 minutes. These exercises are rhythmic in nature. Furthermore, aerobic exercise challenges the heart.

Exercises that are considered aerobic are those such as walking, running, biking, stair-climbing, elliptical training, and swimming, among many others.

So … how much aerobic exercise do you need? Like any other type of exercise, goals and physical condition should be taken into account.

We start by using a simple method known as the “FIT” Principle which was developed by the American College of Sports Medicine.

The “F” stands for frequency. This addresses the question of how often. Ideally, you want to perform aerobic exercise three to five times per week for optimum results.

“I” is the indicator for intensity, or how hard you should work. This brings up the question to target heart rate. Heart rate is how many times your heart beats in a minute. Target heart rate is how many times you want your heart to beat in a minute while you are exercising aerobically. The most common method of figuring out what your target heart rate should be is to use the equation 220 minus your age, which is your maximum heart rate, and then take 60-percent to 85-percent of that.

However, target heart rate is not always the best way to judge intensity since certain factors, such as medications, may affect your heart rate by raising or lowering it. This being the case, other methods are commonly used. One such way is known as the “talk test.” You should be able to carry on a conversation with someone else while you are involved in the aerobic activity. If you are too breathless, then your intensity is too high. Conversely, if you are not breathing hard at all, than your intensity is not high enough.

Another judgment of intensity is referred to “Rate of Perceived Exertion” (RPE). This is your own perception of how hard you are working on a scale of zero to 10. Zero indicates that you are not exerting at all, and 10 is maximal exertion. Ideally, you should be working in the 4-6 range.

The “T” in the FIT Principle stands for time. When you begin an aerobic activity, you want to start with a five-minute warm-up, which is whatever exercise you are doing at a lower intensity. This raises the temperature of your muscles two to three degrees, and brings your heart rate up to a target level. It is best to stay at that level for a minimum of 20 minutes and a maximum of 60 minutes, based on your level of fitness ( the more fit you are, the longer you can go).

Just as the warm-up is important, so it a cool down. This should also be done for five minutes, and it serves to bring your heart rate down slowly so you don’t get light-headed or dizzy.

Time constraints are a familiar concept to everyone in Silicon Valley. Research has proven the two 15-minute or three 10-minute bouts of aerobic exercise is just as effective as one 30-minute session.

So if you have trouble blocking time out of your busy day, it can be equally beneficial to take a 10-minute walk during lunch, and then take a walk in your neighborhood (maybe with a family member, friend, or pet) after dinner.

Come in and check out the new Xtreme Fitness in Morgan Hill. Mention this article and receive 30 days for $30 or 14 days free.

If you have any questions, or would like more information, please contact me at (408) 776-1617.

Karen Frost Seraphine is the Personal Training Director for Mavericks Sports Club in Morgan Hill. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Physical Education/Fitness Management from New York University, and is certified by the American Council on Exercise as a Personal Trainer and a Lifestyle and Weight Management Consultant.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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