Fitness & Exercise

 

What does it mean to be “aerobically fit”?

The average adult will reach a level of oxygen consumption close to about 35 ml/kg/min during a treadmill stress test. What this means is that the person is using 35 milliliters of oxygen for every kilogram of body weight per minute.
Top level athletes can consume as much as 90ml/kg/minute!
This usually takes an incredible amount of training coupled with good heredity.

Does it mean you can’t be aerobically fit? Certainly not.
Here's some information that can help you understand how to get started into being in the best shape of your life:

First of all, you need to understand what happens inside your body when you do aerobic exercise regularly:

  • Your heart gets stronger and pumps a greater amount of  blood with each beat (larger stroke volume). Top athletes tend to  have stroke volumes more than twice as high as average person.  Aerobically conditioned hearts also have a larger diameter and mass (the heart's a muscle too and gets bigger when you train it), and they pump efficiently enough to allow for more  filling time (more blood fills the chambers of the heart before they pump so that more blood gets pushed through the body with each beat).
  • Larger stroke volume means the heart doesn't have to pump as fast when you exercise. Fewer beats and more stroke volume means the heart is more efficient. Large stroke volume is why athletes' hearts don't beat as fast during exercise and why they have such low resting heart rates; sometimes as low as 40 beats per minute, whereas the average is 60-80 beats per minutes!
  • Your muscles, which get more efficient at using oxygen when you do regular aerobic exercise. This is because of an increase in the activity and number of enzymes that move oxygen into the muscle. A way to measure this is known as “VO2Max.” During exercise, VO2 Max if the point at which the body can no longer increase the amount of oxygen it uses despite the intensity of the exercise increasing. The more you exercise, the higher your VO2 Max point becomes, making your muscles that much more efficient.
  • Remember studying cell structures in High School biology? You probably heard a lot about the Mitochondria; the “powerhouse “of your cells. Aerobic exercise makes Mitochondria inside the muscle increase in number and activity. They do all the heavy-duty work to keep you moving. They use the oxygen to burn the fat and carbohydrate that makes you go. In just a few weeks of exercise, they can increase in number and activity, by as much as 50%.
  • So why is it so important to use oxygen better?  Because you need more oxygen to use the fat in your body as fuel. The higher your  VO2 Max, the more mitochondria you have working for you, the better you will be at burning (and not storing) fat in your body.

So when is exercise Aerobic or Anaerobic (and what is the difference)?

  • The two terms pretty much mean with oxygen (Aerobic) and without Oxygen (Anaerobic). An easy way to tell if you are exercising Aerobically is that you should not be out of breath. 
  • What that means is that walking, running, biking, using an elliptical trainer are generally aerobic activities but they can become anaerobic as well if they are done at a high intensity level and for long enough.

So how much aerobic exercise do you need?

There are two physical activity guidelines in the US.

The first, the Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health, is a lifestyle recommendation. The recommendation is that all adults should accumulate 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on most, if not all days of the week. The keys to focus on are "accumulate" and "moderate-intensity." Accumulate means that you can do 10-15 minutes at a time and repeat that a couple of times throughout the day; for example, 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes at lunch, and 10 minutes around dinner. Moderate intensity is equivalent to feeling "warm and slightly out of breath" when you do it.

The second is from the American College of Sports Medicine. The ACSM suggests 20-60 minutes of continuous aerobic activity (biking, walking, jogging, dancing, swimming, etc.), three to five times a week, at 60%-90% of maximum heart rate, and two to three days of resistance training.

Which one you choose is a personal choice.

How do I go about getting started with aerobic exercise?

The best way to get started on a aerobic program is to get a treadmill (category page link)or elliptical trainer(category page link) into your home.

Why?

Because having it there takes away all the excuses. Getting to a gym takes extra time (preparing your gym bag, getting there, showering there, waiting for the machines to be available, etc). After a short while, it is just not a sustainable lifestyle unless you are one of those people who are all about the gym and nothing else. The assumption here is that this is not your goal. Also, having a treadmill or elliptical in your home means that the weather is not an issue. In fact, bad weather can be a good reason to stay inside and exercise.

Here’s how to get started:  Keep it simple, keep it practical, keep it convenient, keep it realistic, keep it specific, and don't try to make up for years of inactivity all at once.

Pick the right treadmill or elliptical for your needs. For an elliptical, use our stride selector to help you choose the one that fits you best. For a treadmill, look at our comparison tool to let you know what features you may want and what fits into your budget. Don’t bother with the cheap stuff you can get in some department store as it will break down in no time (and it indicates that you have decided not to really make a commitment to get into shape.

The best thing about using treadmills and ellipticals is that the probability of sticking with it is high. You are not subject to changes in the weather and you can set yourself up in such a way that you can have your favorite music or TV at hand to keep you from getting bored. A classic technique is to allow yourself to watch your favorite shows, only if you are exercising as well.

Planning is very helpful when it comes to establishing new habits. The saying goes that it takes 12 weeks to break a bad habit and just 3 weeks to create a good one.

I suggest writing down what day(s) of the week you'll exercise, what time of day, minutes of activity, location, and the activity that you'll do. Be as specific and realistic as possible, and remember that it's not how much you do when you get started but that you simply get started (getting started is usually the hardest part).

Most people who have not been taking care to be aerobically fit can benefit from just 30 minutes a day, 3 times a week. Ass you improve, you may want to add more days or increase the difficulty of your workouts. The key is to get started and and keep going. You’ll find that after month, you will feel so much better, you’ll wonder why you didn’t care of your aerobic fitness earlier.

Exercise disclaimer:
Always check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program or changing your exercise routine significantly. This is especially important if you have been sedentary for a long time , are overweight, have a high risk of coronary heart disease or some other chronic health problem.

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