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Aerobic Training

The mechanics of aerobic exercise require that oxygen be brought in by the lungs and transferred to the blood vessels. Oxygen rich blood is then pumped by the heart to the muscles. The muscles utilize oxygen for muscle contraction. Through routine aerobic activity, the body becomes more efficient at processing oxygen. Examples of aerobic activity include running, jogging, biking, rowing, walking. In fact any exercise that incorporates large muscle groups, raises the heart rate, breathing rate and body temperature is aerobic in nature.


  • Increases cardiorespiratory and cardiovascular system outputs
  • Strengthens heart
  • Decreases resting heart rate
  • Improves circulation by clearing out cholesterol build up
  • Body adapts to burn fat as primary fuel source
  • Improves psychological disposition and reduces stress levels
  • Raises basal metabolic rate
  • Decreases blood pressure
  • Reduces LDL blood cholesterol level
  • Tones muscles
  • Improved balance and posture
  • Increases Blood Oxygen level
  • Increases flexibility, reducing capability for injury


Weekly Requirements and Limitations

Fitness Level gains are determined by Frequency, Intensity and Duration of the Aerobic exercise. Each session (duration) should last from 20 to 60 minutes and be performed 3 to 5 days per week (frequency) at an intensity level measured by heart rate (60% – 90%) according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

During the first 15 minutes of aerobic activity, glycogen or sugar within the muscles is used for energy. Fat metabolism for energy doesn’t occur until about 15 to 20 minutes after beginning aerobic activity. This is why it’s important that aerobic duration be at least 30 minutes. Aerobic sessions greater than 1 hour continue to burn fat but at not the same rate as during the first hour.

Additionally, sessions greater than 1 hour increase the risk of injury due to fatigue. Increasing aerobic frequency (greater than 5 times per week) does not give the body a chance to fully recover and can even reduce the body’s capability to defend itself against illness. It is important to listen to what your body is trying to tell you. Rest, adequate sleep, proper diet all become more critical when demands are placed on our bodies above the normal everyday physical stress.


Diet Requirements

The type of fuel you put in a vehicle depends on the performance you expect out of it. The same is true of our body. Unlike weight training, aerobic training has two main goals. The first is to improve cardiovascular performance, the second to burn fat. Both of these goals can be realized during the same aerobic session.

If the goal is to simply improve cardiovascular strength then we need to target performance. Like weight training, we want to consume a complex carbohydrate snack before aerobics. A sugar snack will not provide the sustained energy and in fact may decrease performance. Excessive sugar intake before aerobic activity can work against the participant. When large amounts of sugar are ingested, the pancreas must secrete insulin to metabolize the sugar. Insulin levels in the blood inhibit the liver from metabolizing fat. Therefore little or no fat burning takes place during exercise. This includes sugary drinks, i.e., sport drinks which, stay in the stomach much longer than ordinary cold water thereby inhibiting quick hydration. Therefore, if the goal is to burn fat, then water only should be consumed before aerobics.

Types of Aerobic Activities

Anything that maintains the target heart rate 60% – 90% of the Maximum Heart Rate is considered aerobic. If the heart rate is lower, then aerobic levels have not been reached. If the heart rate is higher, then an anaerobic level has been reached. During anaerobic exercise (sprinting) protein is being consumed and energy is being produced without the benefit of oxygen.

High intensity, high impact aerobics is not necessary to burn fat. For example, running for 1-mile burns only 20% more fat than brisk walking for 1 mile. It’s important to focus on the exercise and maintain the target heart rate. Watching TV, reading books or other similar activity tends to distract the participant from monitoring the target heart rate. Use music with sufficient beats per minute to intensify the exercise session (120 – 140 bpm).

It is important to provide a period for cool-down. Abruptly stopping aerobic activity can cause blood pooling
in your lower extremities or making you feel lightheaded.


During pregnancy, no exercise should be performed in the supine position after the fourth month. Target heart rate should not exceed 140 bpm. Avoid exercises that incorporate extreme flexed or extended joint positions. Joints are looser in the latter part of pregnancy. Also avoid jumping movements due to joint and tissue laxity. It is important to maintain the current fitness levels during pregnancy and not try to increase or improve the fitness level. The time to do this is before pregnancy not during. Keep Aerobic/Step moves basic and simple. High step heights can become dangerous due to the body’s change in the center of gravity. Recommended step heights are 4 to 6 inches. Keep strenuous activities down to a duration of 15 minutes at a time. It is also very important to avoid the Valsalva maneuver (holding the breath) during exercise. It robs not only the baby of oxygen but oxygen starved muscles can cramp easily.


Maximum Heart Rate

The Maximum Heart Rate is determined by the participant’s age. This is the level that must never be exceeded. Never exercise even near the maximum heart rate. Drugs, illness, coffee, and alcohol can push the heart rate to dangerous levels. The maximum heart rate is determined as follows:

Maximum HR = 220 – Age

Resting Heart Rate

Heart rate is an accurate measure of your performance during the aerobic session. However, it is not the only indicator of your fitness level. The Resting Heart Rate (RHR) needs to be determined, particularly if you plan to use the Karvonen method of determining your target heart rate. The resting heart rate is measured for three consecutive mornings before you get out of bed. Keep a watch or clock with a second hand to count the beats and count for 10 seconds then multiply the total 10-second count by 6. The number you get is your resting heart rate. As your cardiovascular system becomes stronger, the resting heart rate will become lower. You will then need to repeat the above measurement.

Target Heart Rate

The Target Heart Rate is the heart rate range that the participant should try to maintain during exercise. The participant’s fitness level determines which of the three intensity levels Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced should be maintained. For each category, approximately 4 to 6 weeks should pass before moving to the next level assuming at least three aerobic sessions a week.

Beginner Intermediate Advanced
Target HR 60% – 70% 70% – 80% 80% – 90%

Heart rate should be measured every 15 to 20 minutes for experienced participants of aerobic exercise and every 5 – 10 minutes for beginners. Pulse rate can be measured from one of two anatomical sites, the carotid artery or the anterior wrist. Counting should begin within 5 seconds after exercise stops and begin with zero. Count the number of beats for 10 seconds then multiply by six to get the beats per minute. Beta-Blocker medication lowers the overall heart rate. Raising the arms overhead produces a higher heart rate known as the Pressor response. If the heart rate is too low, use full range of motion and more arm movement. Conversely, if the heart rate is too high, shorten the range of motion and reduce or eliminate arm movement. During pregnancy, heart rates should not exceed 140 bpm.

There are two methods for calculation of the target heart rate. The Standard Method is the quick method and uses an intensity range of 60% to 90% of the maximum heart rate. The Karvonen method incorporates the individuals resting heart rate and is therefore the more accurate method. This method uses an intensity range of 50% to 85%.

An example calculation using the Standard Method for a 40 year old for a desired aerobic intensity of 75%
would be:

Standard Target HR = %Intensity/100 * (Maximum HR)

= 0.75 * (220 – 40)

= 135

An example calculation using the Karvonen Method for a 40 year old with a resting heart rate of 50 bpm for a desired aerobic intensity of 75% would be:

Karvonen Target HR = %intensity/100 * (Maximum HR – Resting HR) + Resting HR

= 0.75 * (220 – 40 – 50) + 50
= 147

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