Fit Bits: Aerobics, the cardio workout

4/2/2007 7:00:00 AM

This month we are going to switch gears and talk more about aerobic exercise and the effects on various muscle groups.

Up until now I have stressed how important weight training is, but the aerobic or cardio workout, as it is sometimes called, is just as important.

Here are a few examples why:

As the word cardio implies, aerobics stimulates the most important muscle in the body, the heart. If your heart muscle is not healthy then whatever you are doing to improve the outside of your body is for naught. A healthy heart is a good start to a healthy body.

Nearly every case study that I have read on aerobic exercise agrees that a minimum of 16 minutes is required to bring the heart rate up to an effective level. Now of course every minute after that helps for that extra fat burning effect to shrink those fat cells and make room for the muscle cells that you are building by doing weight training.

Not only that, you will elevate your metabolism rate which will burn calories at a much higher rate than normal, even while at rest or sleeping. So even if you are on a strict time limit it is OK to do a 20-25 minute aerobic workout. A common question when it comes to aerobic workouts is how long should the workout be. The answer is 30 minutes or more is good but 16-25 minutes is OK. What techniques or machines should I use is another question I hear frequently.

If you have access to a gym or fitness center I would recommend several machines. The elliptical, treadmill and stationary bike are all good choices. Swimming is also an ideal cardio exercise, and it is low impact, as well. For those of you with knee, foot, back or ankle problems the low impact machines are the elliptical and stationary bike. If you don't have a membership to a fitness center then power walking, jogging, skipping rope, or dancing would be good choices here. Remember the objective here is to elevate your heart rate to approximately 75 percent of maximum heart rate for your age. There is a simple formula for that and it is 220 minus your age that is your maximum heart rate, (X) 75 percent (.75) which is the targeted rate for maximum fat burning as well as heart stimulation. Here is an example for a 50 year old: 220 minus 50 (your age)= 170 max heart rate (never exceed this) (X) .75 = 127.5. Then round up to 130 (beats per minute). There is an allowable plus or minus 10 bpm variance to this formula. So for this example 120-140 bpm would be acceptable.

Unlike resistance training (weight lifting) aerobics can be done four to five days per week. This is because weight training creates micro tears in muscle tissue and must recuperate before the next session, which is not the case with aerobics. So incorporate a few aerobic sessions per week into your fitness program.

Remember to stretch and warm your muscles before starting any physical workout. Muscles are like rubber bands, the warmer they are the easier they stretch thus reducing injuries, muscle pulls and soreness. Next month I will be discussing some relaxation techniques and how to maintain that positive attitude. Until next time this is your e fitness coach reminding you to exercise, eat a balanced diet, maintain a positive attitude and be fit for life.


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