The Benefit of Aerobic Exercise

I think we all know that getting our heart rates elevated every day is good for our overall health, but do you know why? We hear the word ‘aerobic’ exercise a lot, but what does it mean and what is its actual benefit to you. Let’s look into what it means to exercise aerobically, what it does for your heart and body, how to find your aerobic ‘zone’, and how long you should exercise aerobically every day.

What Defines ‘Aerobic’

There are two ways you can work your body while exercising; aerobic and anaerobic. Quite simply, you can either exercise while feeding your muscles a consistent supply of oxygen, aerobically; or without feeding your muscles a consistent supply of oxygen anaerobically. Since you’re dealing with oxygen and feeding your muscles, this means you’re are working based on your respiration rate.

When you’re exercising at an intensity that elevates your respiration rate to an extent that your muscles are consuming the oxygen they need to function at approximately they same rate your muscles are using the oxygen, this is called aerobic exercise. Your muscles are working and consuming oxygen at the same rate as you’re respiration. This is a sustained exercise level because you are working at an intensity that your body can still maintain without becoming oxygen deprived. There are benefits to working anaerobically, but for the average person it’s safer and more effective to work aerobically.

How Does it Help You

During aerobic exercise you will improve your cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, help regulate blood sugar, improve mood, aid in sleep, and improve your immune system. These are just a few of the many benefits of aerobic exercise. Another benefit is that sustained aerobic exercise also improves weight loss results. Many people believe this is through the burning of excess calories, but this is only part of the story.

People who are exercising on a regular basis have an increased awareness of their nutritional habits. This, combined with the improved mood, better sleep, and nutritional habit changes results in weight loss. I’m sure we all know someone, who tries to exercise their poor diet and lifestyle choices away. This is an impossible feat. You will never be able to exercise long enough to account for the cortisol rise from the lack of sleep and poor diet choices. Weight loss comes as a result of lifestyle changes, aerobic exercise is one piece of that lifestyle change puzzle.

How Long Should You Stay in ‘The Zone’

Knowing the benefits of aerobic activity, you’re probably wondering how you can get started. You may have actually been exercising aerobically and didn’t know it. Anything that gets your heart pumping at an elevated rate and sustained at that rate for an extended period of time is aerobic exercise. So, if you’ve been taking Fido out for a sweaty morning walk every day, congratulations, you’re exercising aerobically. Dancing in your living room for twenty or thirty minutes? You got it, aerobic exercise. Even vigorously scrubbing your floors can be aerobic exercise.

Here’s a great test to check if you’re in your aerobic ‘zone’, as I like to call it. Think of your breath as the indicator. At a level 1 you’re just sitting around, this is your relaxed breath. At a level 10 you’re racing to save a child from running into oncoming traffic. Your aerobic zone is between the two at a level 5. You could still hold a conversation, but it’s easier and more comfortable not to and just focus on your breathing. This is your personal aerobic ‘zone’.

This will be different for everyone. Some people will need to run to achieve their ‘zone’ while others can reach it by walking. Whatever gets you in the level 5 place is where you want to stay for a minimum of 30 minutes at least 3 times a week to feel the benefits. You can go as long as you feel comfortable. I would recommend no more than 2 hours, if you are one of the die hards that loves being in your ‘zone’. I’ll discuss why in another article, but for now just trust me.

If you’d like to get a bit more scientific and find out what your ‘zone’ should be you can use the following calculation:

1. Calculate Your Maximum Heart Rate

Subtract your age from 220. The result is an age-predicted maximum beats per minute.

It’s important to note that this method does not take into account your fitness level or inherited genes, which can make your true maximum heart rate 10 to 20 beats per minute higher or lower than the age-predicted number.

2. Determine Your Resting Heart Rate

Take your pulse before you get out of bed in the morning. Do this for several days in a row to get consistent readings.

3. Calculate Your Heart-Rate Reserve

Subtract your heart’s resting rate from your maximum rate.

For example, if you are 40 years old, subtract that number from 220; your maximum rate is 180. Next, subtract your resting rate or 80 in this example. Your heart-rate reserve is 100 beats per minute.

4. Calculate Your Aerobic Training Heart-Rate Range

This fat-burning range will lie between 50 and 75 percent of your heart-rate reserve.

Using the example above, 50 percent of 100 beats per minute is 50. And 75 percent of 100 is 75. Next, add your resting heart rate to both numbers: 50 + 80 = 130 and 75 + 80 = 155. Therefore, during aerobic training, the heart rate that will most efficiently burn fat and get cardiovascular benefits is 130 to 155 beats per minute.

You Can Do This

Remember, as with any lifestyle change, start small. If you’re going to begin exercising aerobically and you’ve barely gotten off the sofa in 5 years, maybe start by standing up and sitting down again for 5 minutes. Gradually increase from there to maybe a walk around the house, touching the farthest wall in each room. Continue to gradually and gently increase from there.

You need to start from where you are and build. It shouldn’t be a chore. Find an activity you love and turn that into your aerobic exercise. You only need to build up to 30 minutes, at the very least, 3 times a week. Have fun with it. You can do this. I have faith in you. If you have questions about your ‘zone’ feel free to contact me. I’d love to help you get started!

Trackbacks & Pings

  • The Importance of Flexibility :

    […] at what improves cardio function. Achieving a heart rate in the zone as I discussed in the article The Benefit of Aerobic Exercise is what improves cardio function. So, can you achieve a heart rate in that zone by sitting in one […]