Aerobic Exercise: Benefits And How To Guide

Aerobic Exercise
"Aerobics" was coined by Dr. Cooper, an exercise physiologist at the San Antonio Air Force Hospital. He was the first to develop a formula for a target heart rate. Although there have been more recent improvements on this original formula, Dr. Cooper's heart rate formula involved subtracting your age from 220 and exercising at a heart rate of 60-80% of that number. Although "aerobics" were originally designed to help astronauts, Dr. Cooper soon realized that this would be a beneficial type of exercise for everyone.

Since that time, the original formula has been improved, and studies have shown several benefits of regular aerobic exercise, such as:

*Weight loss and weight maintenance (aerobic exercise burns fat.)

*Increased long-term energy and 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!

The exercise intensity and duration determine whether the muscles work aerobically or anaerobically. Aerobic exercise requires a very specific level of intensity for at least thirty minutes at a time. If the heart rate is too low or too high, the exercise becomes anaerobic instead.

During true aerobic exercise, the body burns fat for energy. Converting fat into energy requires oxygen, hence the name "aerobic." Aerobic exercise is useful for providing muscle endurance (energy for hours or days at a time without fatigue). This is particularly important for muscles that support posture, joints, and arches of the feet. If there is not enough aerobic exercise for these types of muscles, the chances of joint problems, injuries, and low stamina go up.

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 enhanced our understanding of aerobic exercise and endurance training. He studied many athletes before and after workouts, measuring indicators like heart rate, gait mechanics, and muscle imbalance. Dr. Maffetone discovered that the athletes who exercised using Dr. Cooper's original formula often wound up over-training and suffering from injuries, pain, joint problems, and distortions in posture and body mechanics. After much work, Dr. Maffetone developed 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. Just subtract your age from 180 to calculate your maximum aerobic heart rate. As an example, a 34 year old would have a maximum aerobic heart rate of 146 beats per minute. There are some modifiers and exceptions to this formula, and they are as follows:

*Subtract another 10 from the maximum aerobic heart rate if: recovering from major illness or surgery, or if on 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. The 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. Simply subtract 10 points from the maximum aerobic heart rate. So a healthy 32 year old would have a max of 148 and a minimum of 138.

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

You'll find it's surprisingly easy to exercise aerobically. It doesn't take much to get your heart rate up to the target zone. That's good news for couch potatoes (talk about exercising smarter, not harder!), but sometimes frustrating for athletes who don't want to slow down their training. Athletes need to do this, however, to protect their bodies. The good news for athletes here is that, as your heart becomes more aerobically fit, you'll soon be able to quicken the pace without surpassing your maximum aerobic heart rate. Once you start wearing a heart rate monitor, you'll likely also discover that any activity other than running, walking, cycling, or swimming at a steady pace is 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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