Aerobic Exercise: Benefits And How To Guide

By Jasmine Greene
“Aerobics” was coined by Dr. Cooper, an exercise physiologist at the San Antonio Air Force Hospital. He was the first to develop a formula for a target heart rate. Although there have been more recent improvements on this original formula, Dr. Cooper’s heart rate formula involved subtracting your age from 220 and exercising at a heart rate of 60-80% of that number. Although “aerobics” were originally designed to help astronauts, Dr. Cooper soon realized that this would be a beneficial type of exercise for everyone.

Since then studies have demonstrated many benefits of regular aerobic exercise, including:

*Weight loss & maintaining weight (aerobic exercise burns fat!)

*More long-term, consistent energy & stamina

*Improved mood

*Pain relief (by natural endorphin production)

*Stronger heart & better circulation (keeps arteries clear and helps prevent heart disease)

*Improved blood sugar control and adrenal health

*Lower blood pressure

*Stronger bones (weight bearing aerobic exercise helps prevent osteoporosis)

*Stronger immune system

*Longer life expectancy

If you’ve been struggling with poor energy, low endurance, aches and pains, too much body fat, too much stress, or sugar or carbohydrate cravings, chances are that you are not enough aerobic exercise!

The exercise intensity and duration determine whether the muscles work aerobically or anaerobically. Aerobic exercise requires a very specific level of intensity for at least thirty minutes at a time. If the heart rate is too low or too high, the exercise becomes anaerobic instead.

During true aerobic exercise, the body burns fat for energy. Converting fat into energy requires oxygen, hence the name “aerobic.” Aerobic exercise is useful for providing muscle endurance (energy for hours or days at a time without fatigue). This is particularly important for muscles that support posture, joints, and arches of the feet. If there is not enough aerobic exercise for these types of muscles, the chances of joint problems, injuries, and low stamina go up.

In anaerobic exercise, the body burns sugar (glucose) for energy. No oxygen is required for this type of energy production. Burning sugar provides short term speed and power. Muscles cannot burn sugar for long, however, and so they fatigue quickly. Most people have no shortage of anaerobic exercise; even while seated, the body runs many tasks anaerobically, and virtually all sports are anaerobic due to their alternating bursts of high intensity (anaerobic) exercise and rest.

Internationally recognized researcher and author Dr. Phil Maffetone has greatly changed our understanding of aerobic exercise and endurance training. Dr. Maffetone studied many athletes pre- and post-workout for many indicators, including heart rate, gait, and muscle imbalance. He found that the athletes who used Dr. Cooper’s original formula often over-trained and suffered from injuries, distortions in body mechanics and posture, pain, and joint problems. After much work, Dr. Maffetone developed a new and improved formula for calculating each individual’s target heart rate for true aerobic exercise.

There are just four simple steps to proper aerobic exercise and all its benefits:

1. Invest in a heart rate monitor with a chest strap as well as a wrist watch/display. It’s not a good idea to exercise without one because you’ll have no way of knowing if you’re at the right pace. There are many brands and models available. Polar is an industry leader and is usually a safe bet. If you work out in a gym, invest in a model that is coded so that there is no signal interference from other electrical devices nearby.

2. Calculate your maximum aerobic heart rate using Dr. Maffetone’s formula. Just subtract your age from 180 to calculate your maximum aerobic heart rate. For example, a 33 year old who wants to exercise aerobically would have a maximum heart rate of 147 beats per minute. Modifiers and exceptions to this formula are as follows:

*Subtract another 10 from the maximum aerobic heart rate if: recovering from major illness or surgery, or if on any regular medications.

*Subtract another 5 from the max heart rate if: injured, have regressed in training or competition, suffer from more than two bouts of cold/flu per year, have allergies or asthma, just starting to train, or if you’ve been training inconsistently (Dr. Maffetone defined consistency as at least 4 times per week for 2 years).

*Add 5 to the max heart rate if: training consistently for more than 2 years without any injuries or problems and have made progress in competition.

*Add 10 to the max heart rate if: over the age of 65.

*This formula does not apply to athletes 16 years old or younger. The best bet for these athletes is 165 as the max heart rate.

*If in doubt, choose the lower maximum heart rate.

3. Calculate your minimum aerobic heart rate. Simply subtract 10 points from the maximum aerobic heart rate. So a healthy 32 year old would have a max of 148 and a minimum of 138.

4. Walk, jog, bike or swim while wearing your heart rate monitor. Stay within your aerobic heart rate zone for at least 30 minutes at a time, and do this at least three times per week. I don’t advise exceeding 90 minutes without a doctor’s supervision.

You’ll find it’s surprisingly easy to exercise aerobically. It doesn’t take much to get your heart rate up to the target zone. That’s good news for couch potatoes (talk about exercising smarter, not harder!), but sometimes frustrating for athletes who don’t want to slow down their training. Athletes need to do this, however, to protect their bodies. The good news for athletes here is that, as your heart becomes more aerobically fit, you’ll soon be able to quicken the pace without surpassing your maximum aerobic heart rate. Once you start wearing a heart rate monitor, you’ll likely also discover that any activity other than running, walking, cycling, or swimming at a steady pace is anaerobic.

As a chiropractor and acupuncturist, I’ve noticed substantial benefits for both myself and my patients who invest a little bit of time each week to exercise aerobically. The immediate and long-term benefits are well worth the effort!

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Aerobic Exercise: Benefits And How To Guide

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