Aerobic Fitness

Exercise that makes you breath hard and gets your blood pumping! The most important kind of fitness for living a long healthy life.

Aerobic Fitness: The level of your ability to take in oxygen, distribute it to your muscles, and use it to produce energy. This ability depends on the condition of your lungs, the strength of your breathing muscles, the condition of your heart, the condition of your blood vessels, and the condition of the rest of your skeletal muscles.

How it all works
Examples
Benefits
Requirements
Important Notes
Swimming
Interval Training
Staircase & Pyramid Interval Workouts
Circuit Training

How it all works

Breathing: You take in oxygen through your mouth and nose, into your larynx, down your trachea, and through your bronchial tubes, which branch many times eventually reaching millions of tiny alveolar sacs within your lungs. If you smoke, or breath highly polluted air, these tiny sacs and ducts become coated with pollutant, which can reduce the amount of air you can draw into your lungs and reduce the amount of oxygen that can be transferred from the lungs to the blood. So, the first thing one should do if they are serious about getting in shape is to quit smoking or vow never to pick up a cigarette. Otherwise you are handicapping yourself. Blood Vessels and the Heart: From the alveolar sacs, the oxygen diffuses through membranes to enter tiny blood vessels called capillaries. The capillaries join each other to form larger and larger veins until they empty into the most important muscle in your body, your heart. Your heart supplies the force that distributes the oxygen throughout your body. The oxygen-rich blood is pumped to the muscles, where the oxygen diffuses through membranes to enter the muscle cells. To be physically fit, your vessels must be clear to allow efficient flow of blood. If you eat lots of butter and fried foods you are increasing the level of bad cholesterol in your body which can coat the inside of your vessels and slow down the flow of blood. The vessels that supply your heart with oxygen are very small and susceptible to cholesterol build-up. So to keep your heart and vessels in good condition limit buttery, fried foods. Another important way to keep your heart strong is to exercise it. The heartbeat at rest is not enough to keep your heart in good physical condition. You must hold it at a level above rest to exercise it. When you exercise aerobically, you should sustain a minimum level of work for at least 20 minutes at a time, so your heart rate increases to about 125 beats per minute and remains at or above that rate.
Muscle: The process of creating energy using oxygen occurs within the muscle cells (including those within the heart). When you exercise aerobically you are conditioning your muscles so their ability to create energy increases. Organelles within the muscle cells involved with the creation of energy grow and develop when you exercise regularly. This is why exercising only once in a while doesn't help. It is important to exercise at least 3 times a week if you want to increase your aerobic fitness.

Examples

  • Speed-walking
  • Biking
  • Running
  • Aerobic dancing
  • Any type of fast dancing
  • Swimming
  • Rowing
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Basketball
  • Rugby
  • Soccer
  • Utimate frisbee
  • Racquet sports (racquetball, tennis)
  • Jumping rope, rollerblading
  • Boxing (shadow boxing, hitting a bag)
  • Paddeling (canoe, raft, kayak)
  • Rowing (row machine, row boat)
  • Hiking
  • Climbing
  • Circuit training

Benefits

Aerobic training strengthens your heart and lungs. It makes your muscles more efficient at producing energy, resulting in a higher constant level of energy. It can produce a feeling of euphoria (high) immediately following exercise because of chemicals released in the brain, called endorphins. It prevents hardening of the arteries, which can begin during the teenage years! As a result it prevents heart disease, heart attack and stroke. It gives you the ability to hold more oxygen within your body. This will make you more likely to survive an accident that results in a limited oxygen supply, such as choking on food or an accident near water. It will improve your already good looks! Your complexion will improve due to capillary growth within the skin. Your muscle tone will improve, resulting in better digestion, and better posture. You will be less likely to suffer from depression. In fact you'll probably feel a heck of a lot better! You'll be able to sleep more restfully. Your stress level will decrease. Your confidence will increase. When starting a workout routine, it may be slightly difficult. But once you establish a routine of regular exercise 3 times a week, you will feel better than you do now, guaranteed. For more info see benefits of exercise.

Requirements

  • At least 20 min. 3 times per week
  • During exercise sustain heart rate of about 125 beats per min.

Important notes

If you're significantly overweight, low-impact weight-bearing exercises such as walking or low impact cardio-machines are recommended. High impact exercises should be avoided such as running, jumping rope, or games involving lots of running such as basketball or tennis.

To swim or not to swim

Swimming is an excellent workout for targeting and toning every muscle in the body. However, many people don't swim with the intensity necessary to gain its benefits. Those who are overweight can find swimming to be enjoyable, because they don't have to work against the weight of their body. However, working against the weight of your body is the only way you can lose weight. That's why terrestrial weight-bearing exercise is recommended to those who are overweight.

How to get a workout while swimming
It's difficult to swim continuously at a constant speed for an entire workout and to keep your heart rate up. Because of this difficulty, many people swim extremely slowly in a state of boredom, without receiving the benefits that swimming could offer them. So, to keep it interesting and maintain intensity, split the workout into sets. For your basic set...

  • Pick a length to swim repetitively like 100 yards (4 lengths).
  • Then pick a number of these 100-yard swims to complete - let's say 10.
  • Then pick a time you'll have to complete each swim - let's say 1:30 (1minute and 30 seconds) This will obviously vary according to your fitness level and according to your swimming ability.

ÉYou are to swim each 100 yards within 1:30, and rest during the time left over within your set time of 1:30. After a 20 lap warm up, your set looks like thisÉ

10 X 100 on the 1:30
This means a total of 10 100-yard swims, each within 1 minute and 30 seconds.

  • You have 1 minute and 30 seconds to swim your first 100 yards (or 4 lengths of the pool) and rest.
  • You check the clock at the start of your 100-yard swim (It's easiest to leave at the top of the clock).
  • You have to finish the 100 yards in under 1:30.
  • When you finish, you rest for whatever remaining time you have left within the original 1:30.
  • When the original 1:30 is up, you swim another 100 yards as you did the first in under 1:30, and rest for the remaining time.
  • You swim 10 repetitions of these 100-yard swims in this manner.

When you're done, rest for a minute and do a different set (say 10 X 50 on the :30) or try interval training. After you've completed all the sets you planned to do, swim an easy cool down of at least 200 yards (8 laps) and stretch.

Interval Training

Interval training is a magnificent way to build endurance, "kick", and cardiovascular fitness. After warming up and stretching, you work out continuously doing one aerobic exercise for a set period of time - say 33 minutes. You break up this time into sections or intervals of smaller periods of time. During the first interval you exercise moderately to easy. We'll call this an E interval for "easy". When you come to the second interval you switch gears and exercise intensely. We'll call this an I interval for "intense". When you come to the third interval you once again exercise moderately to easy in order to somewhat recover from the last interval. This would be your second E interval. Once again when you reach the next interval you exercise intensely, an I interval. You keep alternating between easy and hard intervals in this manner until your workout is complete. Then cool down and stretch.

Example: Running, a basic interval workout

  • Warm up
  • Stretch
  • Jog for 5 minutes
  • Sprint for 30 seconds
  • Jog for 5 minutes
  • Sprint for 30 seconds
  • Etc.

Staircase & Pyramid Interval Workouts

A more exciting form of Interval Training
One way to make this workout more interesting and to achieve higher intensity, is by setting up a "staircase" or "pyramid." In both workouts, the E intervals stay easy and constant, while the I intervals increase or decrease in intensity.

In a staircase interval workout, you perform the first I interval with just slightly more intensity than the E interval. The next I interval is performed with more intensity than the first I interval. You increase the intensity from I interval to I interval until you perform your last I interval at your absolute maximum intensity.

In a pyramid interval workout you do the same sort of thing as the staircase, increasing the intensity of each I interval. However you reach your maximum intensity at the middle of your workout. Then you decrease the intensity of your I intervals until you come to the last one, which is performed as the first I interval (just slightly more intense than your E intervals). Confusing? Check out the examples below.

Staircase: Swimming, increasing the intensity of the I intervals by increasing the speed at which you swim
10 X 100s continuously - Even #'s descending
This means you swim a total of 10 100-yard swims back to back without stopping, increasing the speed of each even numbered 100-yard swim. They're called descending, because you're decreasing the time it takes to finish each 100-yards. Here's how you do it...

  1. E interval: 100 yards: easy
  2. I interval: 100 yards in 1:30, slightly faster
  3. E interval: 100 yards: easy
  4. I interval: 100 yards in 1:20: faster than previous I interval
  5. E interval: 100 yards easy
  6. I interval: 100 yards in 1:10: faster than previous I interval
  7. E interval: 100 yards: easy
  8. I interval: 100 yards in 1:00: faster than previous I interval
  9. E interval: 100 yards: easy
  10. I interval 100 yards in 50: GO ALL OUT!

After you've completed your workout, cool down and stretch.

Staircase: Running, increasing the intensity of the I intervals by increasing the amount of time for which they last

  • Jog easy 5 minutes
  • Sprint 30 seconds
  • Jog easy 5 minutes
  • Sprint 1 minute
  • Jog easy 5 minutes
  • Sprint 1 minute and 30 seconds
  • Jog easy 5 minutes
  • Sprint for 2 minutes
  • ...Continue increasing the sprint time by 30 seconds until you
  • Jog easy 5 minutes
  • Sprint 5 minutes
  • Then cool down and stretch

You could turn this into a pyramid workout by continuing without a cool down and...

  • Jog easy 5 minutes
  • Sprint 4:30 minutes
  • Jog easy 5 minutes
  • Sprint 3 minutes
  • ...etc. until you...
  • Jog easy 5 minutes
  • Sprint 30 seconds
  • Then cool down and stretch

Circuit Training
This is a way to workout aerobically while improving strength, muscle tone and flexibility all at the same time! Click to learn more.

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