Exercise is a general term that has many different meanings.
Some people consider walking to and from their car at work “exercise” and others believe that a once a week tennis match is “exercise” as well. Following much of contemporary sports science, we believe that there are two basic types of exercise: aerobic and anaerobic.
By definition, aerobic exercise occurs when the body’s cells use oxygen to form adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP), the body’s energy source on a cellular level. An aerobic exercise is defined as activity in which the body cells do not use oxygen to produce this energy, resulting in an inefficient method of energy formation and the creation of the by-product ethyl alcohol, which causes cramping of the muscles.
Aerobic exercise usually consists of at least 30 minutes of low to moderate paced activity with the most common purposes being to raise the heart rate into a target level and to burn fat. Another reason for aerobic activity is to condition the cardiovascular system.
Depending upon the fitness level and goals of the client the correct aerobic training emphasis (cardiovascular conditioning, fat burning, etc.) is determined. Examples of aerobic exercise include walking, running, swimming and stair climbing. Anaerobic exercise usually consists of some type of weight training for the purposes of gaining strength and retaining lean body mass.
We believe that most exercise programs must incorporate both anaerobic and aerobic exercise for the most beneficial results. In general, a person must not choose one type over the other, or more importantly, at the expense of the other. Exercise choices must be intelligently thought out and followed consistently for the best results.
Aerobic exercise has many different functions, including weight loss, health improvement and maintaining a specific level of fitness. To each of these ends, the type of program we recommend will be different. Most importantly, one must understand maintaining a target heart rate and perceived exhaustion.
When we have a client whose main goal is weight loss, we begin by introducing aerobic exercise gradually into their program. For example, we may just want them to begin with slow walking, eventually reaching the point where they workup to their maintenance level and time. At the point that when they have developed a substantial foundation, more intense types of activities are put forth. Combined with a resistance training program, clients are counseled that the more aerobic activity they do, the faster their body fat will be reduced. Some clients choose to do 45 minutes per day, everyday, and others just prefer to do 30 or so minutes after their resistance training. Each client is monitored and counseled individually. For a general guideline, we recommend at least 30 minutes but prefer at least 60 minutes in the client’s target heart rate area.
For fat loss, the target heart rate should be between 70-80% of the maximum heart rate. The heart rate should also be kept relatively constant. Anything in this range will burn about 50% fat and 50% muscle. However, fat is a very poor source of energy and hard for the body’s cells to break down, so over 80% of the target heart rate will burn more muscle than fat. Since muscle is burned as well as fat in both cases, the importance of resistance training is emphasized.
If the goal is improving your current fitness level for clients who are not overweight, but who are not fit aerobically, we recommend at least 3 sessions per week of 30-45 minutes. The client who is just interested in maintaining their current level, the recommendation is similar; however, the target heart rate would be rotated, with a higher rate on some days and a lower one on others. For cardiovascular conditioning, the heart rate should be kept at 80-88% of the maximum for at least 20 minutes. For improvement of the recovery heart rate, exercises such as wind sprints can be very useful.
Clients are encouraged to walk, run, bicycle ride and do other activities as long as they are relatively low-impact. We do not recommend jogging or any high-impact aerobic exercise. Joint trauma and other associated risks far outweigh the benefits of these types of activity. Additionally, when doing these exercises maintaining a consistent target heart rate is difficult making the aerobic benefits minimally effective.