Monday, January 15, 2001

Get your heart pumping

In aerobic exercise, time and intensity count

By Carrie T. Henderson
Enquirer contributor

        True or false: Running a block for the bus each morning is considered an aerobic activity.

        False: Unfortunately, your daily sprint to the bus stop does not constitute an aerobic activity. An activity is aerobic if your heart rate increases at least 50 percent and remains at the accelerated rate for at least 20 minutes.

        Aerobic means “with air.” During a workout, you should be breathing harder but still be able to carry on a short conversation. Aerobic exercise is also commonly referred to as cardiovascular exercise because the important role it plays in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.

Health benefits

        Aerobic exercise has both physical and mental benefits.

        Cardiovascular activities help to increase metabolism, lower body fat, decrease fatigue, increase flexibility and decrease aging, says Geri Holschuh, a part-time step-aerobics and muscle instructor at the Cincinnati Sports Mall in Fairfax. Aerobic exercise will also help to decrease blood pressure and remove LDL cholesterol (so-called bad cholesterol) from the arteries.

        During aerobic exercise, oxygen is continuously delivered throughout the body at a pace in which the heart can use it more efficiently. Regular aerobic activity will also help to improve your anaerobic performance. An anaerobic activity (without air) is one in which your heart quickly accelerates and rapidly decreases. Your dash to the bus stop would be considered an anaerobic activity.

        Aerobic exercise is not only a physical workout, but also works the mind. Many of Ms. Holschuh's students use step-aerobics as an outlet for relieving stress and tension.

        “When you are sweating and your endorphins are going, you are on an aerobic high,” Ms. Holschuh says. Researchers have also found that regular exercise reduces depression and anxiety in individuals.

Keep FIT

        The American College of Sports Medicine developed the “FIT formula” to help people determine and remember how much aerobic exercise is needed on a weekly basis.

        F: Frequency. Three to five times a week.

        I: Intensity. Heart rate should be 60 to 90 percent maximum rate. T: Time. 20 to 60 minutes of continuous activity. (Excluding warm-up and cool-down periods).

        Progress is very important with exercise. Beginners should not expect to jump into a fitness routine, and remember to check with your doctor before starting a diet or exercise program.

        According to the American College of Sports Medicine cardiovascular exercise can be broken down into three main stages:

        Initial: Lasts from four to six weeks. Beginners should start at 40-60 percent of their targeted heart rate for 12 to 15 minutes.

        Improvement: Last four to five months. Gradually increase intensity level to 70 to 80 percent of target heart rate. Increase duration of exercise.

        Maintenance: Begins after six months of beginning exercise. Improvement at this level is minimum.

Stretching important

        Most people realize the importance of stretching for exercise.

        But many make the mistake of stretching before muscles are properly warmed-up. You should only stretch your muscles after blood has circulated throughout them. Stretching a cold muscle can lead to injury.

        A warm-up should last for 5 to 10 minutes at a low intensity.

        The cool down period is similar to the warm-up in that it should be low intensity and last 5-10 minutes.

        After the cool-down is concluded, it is important to stretch the primary muscles that were used during the workout.

Modify workouts

        “Anyone can work out. It is all about modification,” Ms. Holschuh says. In her Sunday step-aerobics class, there are a variety of students. They range from ages of 20 to almost 80 and are beginners to seasoned athletes. An extra kick or jump can always be added to increase the level of intensity during a workout. Basic moves can also be used to decrease the intensity.





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