STEP TO IT -enjoy an Aerobic Workout!

Aerobic exercise is an activity that uses the same large muscle group, rhythmically for a period of 15-20 minutes (or longer) while maintaining 60-80% of the maximum heart rate. The word aerobic literally means "with oxygen" or "in the presence of oxygen."

Aerobic activity trains the heart, lungs and cardiovascular system to process and deliver oxygen more quickly and efficiently to every part of the body. As the heart muscle becomes stronger, a larger amount of blood can be pumped with each stroke. Fewer strokes are then required to rapidly transport oxygen to all parts of the body.

There are three factors that affect aerobic training and these are frequency, duration and intensity. Frequency refers to how often you perform aerobic activity, duration refers to the time spent at each session, and intensity refers to the percentage of your maximum heartrate reserve at which you work.

Aerobic activities include walking, bike riding, jogging, swimming, aerobic classes and cross-country skiing these activities are all low in intensity but long in duration. Anaerobic activities include squash, weight lifting, sprinting, softball, soccer and football these activities are high in intensity but are relatively short in duration.

The beauty of aerobic exercise is that you are able to choose a workout to suit your individual needs. Do you want a low intensity or high intensity workout? This will depend on your level of fitness and how frequently you exercise.

What are the benefits of aerobic exercise?

There are so many benefits to be gained from participating in an aerobic workout.

  • Aerobic exercise conditions the heart and lungs by increasing the oxygen available to the body therefore enabling the heart to use oxygen more efficiently.

  • Reduces and controls body fat - aerobic exercise and strength training, combined with a proper diet will reduce body fat.

  • Reduces fatigue and increases energy levels.

  • Tones muscles and increases lean body mass.

  • Increases general stamina.

  • Generally exercise improves mood and reduces depression and anxiety.

    How often should you participate in an aerobic workout?

    Cardiovascular fitness is an ongoing process and requires commitment. It is recommended that aerobic exercise be carried out at least 3 times a week minimum. For those who are at a higher fitness level, 4-5 times a week is recommended.

    Warm up before exercising

    Before attempting any form of sport, a warm up is essential as it prepares your body for exercise and reduces the chance of injury. Just as singers warm up their voice by doing scales to avoid damage to their vocal chords, it is very important for all sporting participants to warm up their muscles. Warm ups should be a combination of rhythmic exercises - so as to raise the heartrate and muscle temperature, as well as static stretching. Stretching exercises should cover all areas of the major muscle groups. Always stretch the lower back before doing any lateral movement of the upper part of your body.

    Cool down after exercising

    The purpose of cooling down is to bring the heartrate down to its normal rate and to get the blood circulating freely back to the heart. Stopping exercise suddenly could result in fainting or place undue stress on the heart. Cooling down exercises should involve stretching to help relax the muscles and increase flexibility.

    The best time to exercise

    This will vary from person to person but as a general rule, you should always exercise when it feels right for you. For some, this may mean early in the morning, for others afternoon or evening sessions might better suit.

    The best aerobic program is the one you enjoy and will stick to. Remember the journey of 1000 miles begins with but a single step.

    - Annemarie Failla

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