Aerobic fitness… Cardiovascular fitness… Get up, get moving… Over the last forty years exhortations to exercise have had an increasingly prominent place in popular culture.

We all know we shouldn’t spend our lives on the couch, we’ve been told again and again that if we don’t use it we’ll lose it, and, in today’s world, you’d have to be a hermit not to know at least something about the health benefits exercise can bring.

Types of Exercise

But what sort of exercise should we do? How often should we do it? And how does it actually work?

Well, assuming you’re more interested in being healthy and fit than pumping your biceps until they exceed the diameter of your head, the type of exercise you’ll be concerned with is aerobic or cardiovascular exercise.

Broadly speaking, the term aerobic means “with air”. During aerobic exercise the muscles get their energy by using oxygen to burn carbohydrates and fat. In contrast, anaerobic exercise (“without air”) causes the muscles to source their energy without oxygen, directly from the glycogen or sugar stored in muscle tissue.

Benefits of Aerobic Exercise

The benefits of aerobic exercise include weight loss; increased HDL levels (“good cholesterol”); improved blood pressure; lower triglyceride levels; reduced fatigue, stress and depression; improved heart function and increases in red blood cell count. Perhaps the most measureable benefit, though, is the increased oxygen uptake that results from aerobic training.

By training aerobically, the heart becomes stronger and is able to pump more blood with every heartbeat. As oxygen is transported by the blood this increased blood flow results in increased oxygen transportation and uptake. And the greater your oxygen uptake, the fitter you are.

How Do I Do It?

While anaerobic exercises tend to be short duration, high-intensity activities like sprinting or weight-lifting, aerobic exercise requires sustained exertion over a longer period of time. In fact, exercise is not considered fully aerobic unless it lasts longer than 12 minutes. Brisk walking, running, swimming, cycling and singles tennis are all good examples of aerobic exercise.

Whichever activity you choose, for it to provide aerobic benefits it must raise your heart rate into an aerobic training zone. This zone can be calculated with the following formula:

220 minus your age = maximum heart rate (in beats per minute)
60%-80% of maximum heart rate = your aerobic training zone

So, for a 40 year old, the maximum heart rate would be 180 beats per minute (220 – 40 = 180) and the aerobic training zone would, therefore, be between 108 and 144 beats per minute.

How Much is Enough?

Once you have calculated your aerobic training zone (and after having been cleared for exercise by your doctor, if necessary) you should train within this heartbeat range for between 20 to 60 minutes, 3 to 5 times a week. In addition, you should add a 5-10 minute warm-up/cool-down period at each end of your training session.

So, what are you waiting for? Finding a healthier, slimmer, fitter you could be as simple as getting off that couch and going for a brisk walk.

Aerobic Exercise – The Pathway to a Fitter, Healthier You, 3.3 out of 5 based on 3 ratings

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  1. Holly says:

    That’s helpful to know as I’ve just started going to the gym! Looks like I might have to go more often than first planned.. it’s fun though.

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