I’ve spoken a lot in the past few months about the importance of strength training and several different ways you can approach and implement strength training into your workout routine. I now would like to talk about the importance of aerobic training and incorporating cardiovascular fitness into your workout routine.
Aerobic is occurring with the use of oxygen, or requiring oxygen. Aerobic exercise includes activities in which oxygen from the blood is required to fuel the energy-producing mechanisms of muscle fibers.
Aerobic exercise trains your cardiovascular system which includes the heart and blood vessels.
The heart is a muscle and just like all of the other muscles of the body it needs to be conditioned to efficiently do its job. The hearts main job is to take oxygen-laden blood from the lungs and pump it through the body, it then takes carbon dioxide-laden blood back to the lungs where it is exchanged for oxygen. The heart is one of the most important muscles of the body because it is what keeps our body running. Cardiovascular exercise strengthens the heart muscle and therefore makes it extremely important to incorporate.
Some of the benefits of aerobic training include:
- burns body fat
- increase life span
- increases energy levels
- aides in preventing disease and cancer
- enhance self-image and esteem
- relieves stress and anxiety
- increases good (HDL) cholesterol levels
- improves quality of sleep
- improves memory and mental sharpness
Now that we know what aerobic training strengthens, the benefits and why we need to include it into our workout routine, lets discuss different types, methods and what is considered aerobic training.
For aerobic training you must raise the heart rate and breathing rate to a higher intensity level. How high you can raise the intensity will be based on age and fitness level. You should be able to feel this increase in intensity and sustain it at a steady state or range of intensity above moderate to vigorous for at least a 10-20 minutes in duration for it to be considered a cardiovascular workout.
There are several ways in which you can do this:
Gyms and/or fitness centers have cardiovascular machines that can easily bring your aerobic intensity up. These machines include:
- Stair Climbers
There are many machines to choose from in a variety of forms including weight bearing, non-weight bearing and recumbent. Each one has different benefits in aerobic fitness, strength and joint movement and/or stress. Best choice for you will be based on your overall fitness goals and health.
Other methods of aerobic training include:
- Aerobic classes such as kickboxing, step, Zumba, HIIT, Boot Camp, Spin
- Sports such as swimming, basketball, track, football, soccer, tennis
No matter what method of aerobic training or combination you choose it is important to reach your aerobic training threshold. This refers to the minimum level of intensity that must be exceeded if significant changes in aerobic fitness are to be made. Keep in mind that as you progress in your aerobic training that threshold can change.
One way to determine if you are working at your aerobic threshold is by feel. If you feel out of breathe but can still talk, this would be within your aerobic training threshold. If you are completely out of breathe and cannot talk, you may be over your threshold and possibly at dangerous intensity or heart rate levels. If you don’t feel at all out of breathe and can carry on a long conversation easily, you may be below your threshold.
You can also find your aerobic threshold by monitoring your heart rate with a device. To do so you must first find your maximum heart rate and then base your aerobic training threshold on a percentage of that.
It is best to get at least 30 minutes of aerobic training in at least 3 times a week. You can do separate aerobic training days or incorporate it into your strength training days or workouts. A workout can be both aerobic and anaerobic (strength) as long as you hit your aerobic threshold. Workouts such as HIIT or Boot Camp incorporating circuits of endurance weight training and cardio drills including lots of reps sets with very little rest can achieve your aerobic threshold.
Determine which type of aerobic training methods suit you and your goals best and then decide where and how to fit them into your fitness routine.