Do you really know what aerobic exercise is all about?


  • Fitness
  • Friday, 11 Oct 2019

The benefits of aerobic exercise depend on three components: how intensely you do it, how often you do it and how long you do it for. — TNS

So I did a little test this week. I asked a few non-gym goers what kind of aerobic activity they did and their answer caught me off-guard.

Most told me they don’t have a flair for aerobics and can’t keep up with the teacher’s moves. Or couldn’t coordinate their legs and hands.

One told me she liked Zumba, but not aerobics.

I was gobsmacked.

Yes, the majority thought “aerobic” meant doing aerobic dance classes – the older ones even associated aerobic with Jane Fonda!

When I rephrased my question and asked if they did any cardiovascular endurance or something to increase their stamina level, thankfully, some understood.

Perhaps because fitness has been part of my life as long as I can recall, I assumed everyone knew what aerobic exercise was.

Aerobic dance is a form of aerobic exercise, but aerobic exercise isn’t just limited to aerobic dance.

Here’s a little lesson on aerobic exercise.

Whether you call it aerobic or cardiovascular or cardiorespiratory endurance, it’s the same thing: getting your heart pumping and oxygenated blood flowing, with the goal of improving your cardiorespiratory health.

Aerobic means something that occurs in the presence of, and requires or uses, oxygen.

So, when the body is able to supply adequate oxygen to sustain performance for long periods of time, this is called aerobic exercise.

Examples include brisk walking, running, cycling and rowing.

On the contrary, an anaerobic activity is the type where you get out of breath in just a few moments.

Examples include when you lift heavy weights for improving strength, when you sprint or when you climb a steep hill.

Basically, you go all out in short bursts of activity, leaving you breathless.

Depending on preferences, some people tend towards aerobic exercises, instead of anaerobic ones.

You can also do an aerobic activity and turn it into an anaerobic one, and vice versa.

It all depends on the intensity in which you are performing the activity.

Burning fuel

Aerobic exercise, cardio, cardiorespiratory endurance, burning calories, workout, hiking, Star2.com
Hiking can be both aerobic and anaerobic in nature. — Filepic

There are many forms of aerobic activity, and almost any physical activity that is done at a mild to moderate pace can be considered aerobic.

The heart rate increases linearly with exercise effort and this is often used as a measure of the required intensity of exercise.

The harder you work, the faster the heart beats to keep up.

During exercise, blood vessels in the muscles dilate and blood flow is increased in order to increase the available oxygen supply to meet the energy needs of the body.

The additional oxygen that must be taken into the body after vigo-rous exercise to restore all energy systems to their normal states is called oxygen debt.

The more aerobic capacity the body has, the more oxygen is available to the working muscles, which delays the onset of lactic acid at a given work intensity.

Lactic acid is mainly produced in muscle cells and red blood cells. It forms when the body breaks down carbohydrates to use for energy during times of low oxygen levels.

Your body’s oxygen level might drop during intense exercise and when you have an infection or disease.

Symptoms include a burning feeling in your muscles, cramps, nausea, weakness and feeling fatigued.

When you exercise, your body needs to burn some fuel, which is supplied in the form of carbohydrates and fat.

Fat contains nine calories per gramme whereas carbohydrate has only four. So, you get more energy and can go further on a gramme of fat than on a gramme of carbohydrate.

However, you need more oxygen to burn fat because it’s denser than carbohydrate. Hence, only after roughly 30 minutes of exercise does your body start tapping into your fat store and use it as fuel.

In short, for moderate-level activities, you’ve got to work out longer to get into the fat-burning zone.

Fret not, the good news is that your body gets more efficient at using oxygen and burning fat when you do regular aerobic exercise.

How much exercise you require depends on what your health and fitness goals are.

The right amount

Aerobic exercise, cardio, cardiorespiratory endurance, burning calories, workout, Star2.com
The benefits of aerobic exercise depend on three components: how intensely you do it, how often you do it and how long you do it for. — TNS

According to the 2018 edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans published by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), aerobic exercise varies by three components:

● Intensity – how hard a person works to do the activity, such as moderate (the equivalent of brisk walking) or vigorous (the equivalent of running or jogging).

● Frequency – how often a person does aerobic activity.

● Duration – how long a person does an activity in any one session.

The US HHS recommends that adults aim to get 150 to 300 minutes of moderate physical activity, or 75 minutes to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, a week.

As the names would imply, the difference between moderate-intensity exercise and high-intensity exercise is in the intensity of the workout, or the degree to which you’re pushing yourself.

In addition, you should do balance and stretching activities to enhance your flexibility, as well as muscle-strengthening workouts, two or more times a week.

Whatever your preferred exercise intensity, it’s important to choose activities that you enjoy and will stick with in the long run.

Walking, jogging, hiking, dancing and gardening are all great forms of aerobic exercise that you can easily integrate into your day.

After all, aerobic exercise does wonders to improve your health, even if you perform it in shorter segments throughout the day.

From my observation, the ones who like high intensity exercises tend to have a short fuse and a lot of pent-up emotions.

These exercises give them a chance to release their frustrations. After an activity, they’re always much calmer and can think better.

The calmer ones prefer the likes of yoga and taichi.

In reality, the aggressive ones should be incorporating yoga into their routine, and the calmer ones, a bit of high intensity exercises. This would give their characters more balance.

Every session of aerobic exercise should include a warm-up and cool-down.

Remember to always warm up by gradually increasing the pace and intensity of the exercise.

This allows the blood flow to slowly increase the temperature of the muscles, and decreases the likelihood of a muscle or joint injury.

The warm-up should last around seven to 10 minutes.

The cool-down session should last a similar amount of time as the warm-up, with the pace gradually decreasing.

Stretch at the end, when the muscles are warm and toasty.

Every activity carries some risks and you should pay attention to your body’s signals that something is wrong.

If you’re physically sick or simply exhausted, take a break from exercise.

When you return to your regimen, scale back on the intensity or difficulty level to minimise sore muscles and stress on joints.

Do consult your doctor before you embark on an exercise programme.

Those who suffer from diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, arthritis, asthma or other health conditions may need additional safety guidelines for exercise.

Revathi Murugappan is a certified fitness trainer who tries to battle gravity and continues to dance to express herself artistically and nourish her soul. For more information, email starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information contained in this column is for general educational purposes only. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.


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