“Aerobics” is a term first coined by Dr. Kenneth Cooper, an exercise physiologist at San Antonio Air Force Hospital. He developed the formula of subtracting your age from 220 and exercising with your heart rate at 60-80% of that number. Although he originally formulated “aerobics” to help astronauts, he soon realized that this type of exercise was useful for everyone. The benefits Dr. Cooper noted included weight loss and better heart health.
Since then, there have been improvements to Dr. Cooper’s original formula, and studies have shown many benefits of regular aerobic exercise, including:
- Weight loss and weight maintenance (aerobic exercise burns fat!)
- More consistent long-term energy and endurance
- improved mood
- Pain relief (due to the natural production of endorphins)
- Stronger heart and better circulation (keeps arteries clear and helps prevent heart disease)
- Better blood sugar control and adrenal health
- Low blood pressure
- Stronger bones (aerobic exercise with weights helps prevent osteoporosis)
- stronger immune system
- longer life expectancy
If you’re low on energy, if your stamina isn’t what it used to be, if you’re prone to aches and pains, if you have too much body fat or too much stress, or if you have sugar or carb cravings, chances are you’re not getting enough! aerobic exercise!
The intensity and duration of the exercise determine whether you exercise aerobically or anaerobically. Aerobic exercise requires a very specific intensity level, and you need to maintain that intensity level for at least thirty minutes at a time. If your heart rate is too low or too high (or variable), your exercise will become anaerobic.
In anaerobic exercise, the body burns sugar (glucose) for energy. As the name “anaerobic” suggests, oxygen is not required for this type of energy production. Burning sugar is helpful in providing short term speed and power. However, the muscles cannot burn sugar for very long, so they tire quickly. Most people don’t lack for anaerobic exercise; Even when you are sitting down, your body performs some tasks anaerobically. Additionally, virtually all sports are anaerobic in nature due to their alternating bursts of high-intensity activity and rest.
During true aerobic exercise, the body burns fat for energy. Converting fat to energy requires oxygen, hence the name “aerobic.” Aerobic exercise is useful for providing muscular endurance (energy for hours or days at a time without fatigue). This is particularly important for the muscles that support posture, the joints, and the arches of the feet. If there is not enough aerobic exercise for these types of muscles, the chances of joint problems, injuries and low endurance increase.
Internationally recognized researcher and author, Dr. Phil Maffetone, has greatly changed our understanding of aerobic exercise and resistance training. Dr. Maffetone studied many pre- and post-training indicators for many athletes, including heart rate, gait, and muscle imbalance. He found that athletes using Dr. Cooper’s original formula often ended up overtraining and suffering from injuries, distortions in body mechanics and posture, pain, and joint problems. After much work, Dr. Maffetone developed a new and improved formula for calculating each individual’s target heart rate for true aerobic exercise.
There are just four simple steps to proper aerobic exercise and all its benefits:
one. Invest in a heart rate monitor. It’s just not a good idea to rely on the “feel” of a workout or to guess if your heart rate is too low or too high. There are many makes and models to choose from. Polar™ is the industry leader and is often a safe bet. I recommend buying a model that has a chest strap as well as a wristwatch/display. If you work out in a gym rather than outdoors, invest in a model that is coded so there is no electrical signal interference from other devices in the gym.
two. Calculate your maximum aerobic heart rate using Dr. Maffetone’s formula.
Simply subtract your age from 180. For example, a 32-year-old who wants to do aerobic exercise would have a maximum heart rate of 148 beats per minute. Modifiers and exceptions to this formula include:
- Subtract another 10 from your maximum heart rate if: You are recovering from a major illness or surgery, or if you take any regular medications.
- Subtract another 5 from your maximum heart rate if you: are injured, have fallen behind in training or competition, have more than two cold/flu episodes per year, have allergies or asthma, just started training, or have been training consistently. irregular (Dr. Maffetone defined consistency as a minimum of 4 times per week for 2 years).
- Add 5 to your maximum heart rate if you: train consistently for more than 2 years with no injuries or problems and have made progress in competition
- Add 10 to maximum heart rate if: you are over 65
- This formula does not apply to athletes 16 years of age or younger. The best bet for these athletes is 165 as the maximum heart rate.
- When in doubt, choose the lower maximum heart rate.
3. Calculate your minimum aerobic heart rate. Simply subtract 10 points from your maximum aerobic heart rate. So our healthy 32 year old example would have a high of 148 and a low of 138.
Four. Walk, jog, bike, or swim while wearing your heart rate monitor. Stay within your aerobic heart rate zone for at least 30 minutes at a time, and do it at least three times a week. I do not advise exceeding 90 minutes without a doctor’s supervision.
You will discover that it is surprisingly easy to do aerobic exercise. It doesn’t take much for your heart rate to reach the target zone. That’s good news for couch potatoes (let’s talk about working out smarter, not harder!), but sometimes frustrating for athletes who don’t want to slow down their training. Athletes need to do this, however, to protect their bodies. The good news for athletes here is that as your heart becomes more aerobic, you’ll soon be able to pick up the pace without exceeding your maximum aerobic heart rate. Once you start wearing a heart rate monitor, you’ll also likely find that any activity other than running, walking, cycling, or swimming at a steady pace is likely anaerobic.
As a chiropractor, acupuncturist, and athlete, I have seen substantial benefits for myself and my patients who invest a little time each week for aerobic exercise. The immediate and long-term benefits are well worth the effort!