To condition yourself aerobically you must develop a rational exercise program. It must be tailored to your current capabilities. It must allow progress at an acceptable pace, and be planned around your psychological likes as well as physiological needs.
First choose a category of aerobic activity that is appropriate for your fitness level. If your fitness level is low you should select low calorie per minute exercises. If your fitness level is high pick the high calorie per minute types. For weight loss in fat, you should decide upon an exercise that allows for large muscle groups to work rhythmically, non stop. The more deconditioned you are the fewer activities are right for you. But as you become healthier, a wider range will become suitable, including the interval types that involve starting and stopping, like basketball and tennis. Take an exercise you enjoy doing so that your compliance will remain steady. For variety you can cross-train if necessary. Cross-training is when you participate in two or more exercises that are compatible (specific) in their aerobic requirements. This helps to alleviate any boredom that may arise from doing one activity exclusively. Remember you must exercise regularly to enjoy results.
The three essential components to aerobic planning and progress are exercise Intensity, Duration, and Frequency.
Intensity is your physical response to the energy demands required to achieve a given activity level. The energy demands of any exercise are based on the calories per minute expended during the activity. As you increase the workload (measured in METs) of the exercise, you also increase the amount of calories used. Your heart rate goes up linearly as it responds to the workload you place upon it. It is this linear relationship that allows a maximum intensity level to be calculated from aerobic testing. Your maximum heart rate per minute and volume of oxygen (vo2) consumed per minute during aerobic testing determine your maximum intensity level. When compared against norms for your age and gender your maximum intensity level becomes the measure of your functional capacity.
A safe intensity level for your aerobic conditioning program uses a percentage of your functional capacity. This can be a percent of either workload (METs), vo2, or maximum heart rate. They correlate between one and another so select according to the information available. Typically, this is in the range of 40% to 80% of maximum. The actual percentage you pick is decided by your fitness level. A low fit sedentary individual would exercise at a lower percent of functional capacity as compared to someone who is active with a higher functional capacity. The percentages for an unhealthy adult are 40% to 60%. For a healthy adult they are 60% and 70%. For an athletic adult they are 70% to 80%.
There are several ways to conclude what intensity level you are exercising at. If the vo2 or METs are known, then a speed or speed/grade can be calculated which produces the desired exercise intensity. If the Training Heart Rate Range (zone) is known, then pulse monitoring gives the proper intensity.
However, the most versatile measure of intensity is the way you feel. That is why exercise physiologists around the world are now recommending that you rely on the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) to determine your intensity level. The Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is a cataloging method developed by G. Borg Ph.D. It associates verbal descriptions of effort with actual heart rates. For the first several sessions at a specific intensity you monitor your pulse and then compare it with the appropriate RPE. The heart rate for your intensity level becomes associated with your RPE. You can then begin to rely upon your feelings to know whether you are exercising too lightly or too heavily on any given day.
Duration is the length of time you spend in the aerobic state, exercising at the appropriate intensity level, exclusive of Warm-Up and Cool-Down. The conditioning period may vary in length from 10 to 60 minutes. But usually the conditioning phase lasts from 20 to 30 minutes. This seems to be the length of time required to improve or maintain functional capacity.
The conditioning effect of aerobic exercise is based on the total energy expenditure. Total energy expenditure is the result of both intensity and duration combined. As the intensity of exercise goes up, the duration needed to burn the desired amount of calories goes down. Conversely as the intensity of exercise goes down the required duration goes up. Significant cardiovascular enhancement has been obtained with exercise sessions lasting as little as 5 to 10 minutes at 80% or more functional capacity. However, high intensity- short duration sessions are unsafe for most persons. The risk of injury is high. Low intensity-long duration sessions will produce better results. They burn more calories while lowering the risk of injury. High intensity-short duration exercise uses mostly carbohydrate (sugar) for energy and results in little if any body fat loss. Low intensity-long duration sessions use both fat and carbohydrate (sugar) for fuel and there is a better body fat loss. For the greatest body fat loss, a moderate-intensity/moderate-duration program is recommended.
Although more carbohydrate (sugar) than fat is used for energy in such a program, the increased total caloric expenditure produces the highest body fat loss of all.
Frequency of exercise means the amount of sessions you participate in per week. The recommended frequency varies from several sessions daily, to 3 to 5 sessions each week. How many times you do aerobic exercise each week is largely due to your needs, interests, and functional capacities. For people with a very low capacity several 5 minute sessions daily may be desirable. For persons with a healthy functional capacity exercising three times weekly on alternating days is best. For persons with a high functional capacity aerobic exercising 5 or more times weekly is most beneficial.
The Rate of Progression in the conditioning program depends on your functional capacity, health status, age, needs, and goals. Progress in aerobic exercise can be done by elevating the exercise intensity, lengthening the duration, or increasing the frequency. You progress in your program as you get fit. Vigorous exercise becomes comfortable the more conditioned you are. This happens as your heart and muscles become stronger. You automatically find yourself exercising harder in order to achieve the same Functional Capacity. So periodic Aerobic Self Tests are needed to evaluate your proper rate of growth. You should take another test when: 1) the exercise program feels too easy for you; 2) you find a consistent 6 beat reduction of your heart rate taken at the end of one minute of cool-down; 3) at the end of every 4 to 6 weeks.
Progressing in your exercise Intensity should only take place when the results of an Aerobic Self Test indicate that a change is in order. The exercise intensity used should never exceed the safe and appropriate range calculated from your test information.
Progressing in your Duration takes place when you extend your exercise time without changing your intensity level. Your heart builds endurance by exercising for longer periods at the same beats per minute (aerobic steady state).
Progressing in your Frequency happens as your rate of recovery improves. As you start to renew and replenish your muscles and energy more quickly you can exercise more often.
All three methods of progression are based upon creating an increase in the amount of calories consumed during the exercise session. Rapid and dramatic improvements are possible during the initial stages. However, the longer you stay involved in the conditioning program the slower your rate of progress.
If you are deconditioned, begin with light calisthenics and a gentle approach. This minimizes your initial muscle soreness, avoids injuries, and allows you to adapt to your exercise routine. After a week or so you can begin your regular progress. The Initial Conditioning Stage usually lasts from 4 to 6 weeks. The Improvement Conditioning Stage typically lasts for 4 to 5 months. The Maintenance Conditioning Stage begins after the first 6 months. You usually reach a satisfactory level of cardiorespiratory fitness during the maintenance stage. You may no longer be interested in increasing your conditioning. Continuing the same workout schedule enables you to maintain fitness. At this point, your objectives for conditioning should be reviewed and realistic goals set. More enjoyable or variable activities can be substituted for the ones used during the Improvement Stage. Have fun and enjoy the rewards of your results.
There are several environmental factors that need to be considered when doing an aerobic exercise, i.e., the temperature and humidity of the air and the type of surface you are exercising on.
Temperature and humidity can affect your endurance and heart rate. When you do aerobic exercise your muscles require more oxygen to metabolize your fat and carbohydrate (sugar) fuels, so that more working energy is available. Your heart beats faster so that the oxygen carried in your blood reaches your muscles more rapidly. The blood/oxygen supply to your internal organs reduces and a large volume of blood/oxygen is "blood shunted" to the working muscles. As the blood volume and flow increases, blood pressure rises. When organic fuels are burned for energy, heat is released. As the core temperature inside your body goes up, more blood is needed at the surface to cool and maintain your normal body temperature of 98.6.
If the surrounding air is very hot, still, or humid, you may have difficulty regulating your temperature. Your heart rate can be higher then expected for your aerobic work level. Excessive sweating may be an indication of this condition. As your sweat evaporates you are dehydrating and reducing your blood volume at a time when it is needed. Further, you are l osing electrolytes (the mineral substances that conduct electrical processes) setting yourself up for cramps or heart arrythmia If you are sedentary, overweight, or aged you are less likely to tolerate exercise in the heat. You should use extra caution. Whenever exercising in the heat wear porous clothing for air circulation. If you sweat too much slow your pace and monitor your heart rate. Be sure to drink small amounts of cool water (6-8 ounces) every fifteen minutes. Hyperhydrate if you plan on performing prolonged strenuous activity in the heat. Drink about 16-32 ounces of fluid 30-60 minutes prior to exercising. Increase your electrolyte stores by having 6-8 ounces of a mineral replacement drink 10-15 minutes before you start.
Be aware of the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, as well as the treatment for each. Chills, goose pimples, dizziness, fatigue, mental disorientation, nausea, and headaches are some symptoms that may signify the onset of heat illness. Stop activity, get to a cool place, and consume some cool fluids.
The footwear you use should be designed for the type of surface you exercise are on. When you consider that all the weight bearing force of the aerobic activity is focused through your feet, the cushioning of the impact becomes very relevant. Specialized shoes are available for hard surfaces, loose surfaces, and a multitude of aerobic sports. These shoes are expensive. If you cannot afford a pair, padding your feet with an extra pair of socks may be beneficial.
The BioFitness Institute uses the results of your Aerobic Self
Test to compute the values for your safe exercise Intensity.
Every factor necessary is taken into consideration including,
age, weight, gender, vo2, METs, and Functional Capacity. It
determines your correct Target Heart Rate, Training Heart
Rate Range (zone), and Rate of Perceived Exertion. The BioFitness Institute matches your aerobic exercise choices with your
fitness level. This way your exercise selection is always
correct and able to get you to your intensity level using
just the right effort. The BioFitness Institute increases your
exercise duration according to your physical condition and
total caloric expenditure. It organizes your progress four weeks at a time. The BioFitness Institute upgrades your program whenever
you input a change of information. It produces the highest
standard of aerobic conditioning available, precise, safe,
and tailored just for you.