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Why we exercise: aerobic training

In this busy, non-stop world, it is sometimes worth going back to basics and reminding yourself of just why you are regularly turning up at the gym. Just why are we sweating it out in our aerobic training sessions?

What is aerobic exercise?

This article reminds us of the value of aerobic training. This is the type of exercise that raises your heart rate and keeps it up for a sustained period of time. It is the means by which you train your heart, lungs and muscles to keep working for a long time at a moderate effort level.

Over time and done regularly, aerobic exercise will benefit your heart and your muscles. It can lower your blood pressure cholesterol, blood sugar levels and body fat. It can alleviate depression, relieve stress, enhance your mood and raise your self-confidence

Conversely, exercise can also dispel feelings of fatigue.

Regular and sustained

For aerobic activities to be beneficial they need to be done regularly, at a moderate to vigorous level and for a sustained period of time. Generally, medical and fitness experts suggest two and a half hours a week – 150 minutes. This can be in short bursts that all combine to reach 150 minutes or two to three longer sessions. You can fit the exercise around your own time frames.

Examples of moderate activity:

Walking briskly, cycling briskly (15-20 kph), rowing steadily, jogging steadily, low impact dancing, weight lifting or body building. Shooting hoops at basketball, windsurfing, playing a round of golf.

Moderate activity can also include non-gym type activities such as mowing the lawn or mopping floors.

Examples of vigorous activity:

Walking uphill, running, circuit training, high impact dancing, skipping, boxercise, cycling at a fast pace (20 kph and above), skiing or stair climber machines, rowing machines (fast pace).

Hiking with a back pack, competitive sports such as rugby, basketball, football or hockey.

Variety is key to successful aerobic training

To keep things fresh, make sure you add variety to your workout or activity.

You can vary the activities you do. A regular aerobic activity doesn’t always have to be a run or a bike ride. Throw in a hike with friends or a game of basketball at the local park.

Vary the pace you are working at. A running coach once told me to occasionally swap my hard-paced sessions for a ‘smell the roses’ run. He meant take my time and enjoy the experience rather than seeing each run as a challenge to run faster and harder.

You can also vary the time at which you exercise. Always work out in the evenings? Throw in the occasional session before work or college. Instead of one 45 minute session in a day, do three 15 minute sessions.

By doing a range of activities, you can also improve your overall fitness and work muscle groups that may otherwise be neglected. Mixing in activities will challenge your brain and prevent boredom setting in. It can also get you out of a slump.

The value of cross-training

Cross training will also prevent overuse of certain muscle groups and help tone a wider range of muscle groups. If you are a runner, for example, you may have very powerful leg muscles but your upper body muscles may not be getting such a good work out.

Finally, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there in and enter competitions or events. By giving yourself a goal, such as a five kilometre run or a charity bike race, your exercise sessions will take on new meaning and you will get fresh motivation.

For advice and ideas on aerobic activities speak to the team at either the Outlooks Gym or the Free Weights Gym.