Generally, aerobic exercise should involve 5-10 minutes of warming up at around a 50% intensity, followed by at least 20 minutes of exercise at a more significant rate of intensity (70- 80% of maximum heart rate), and ending with 5-10 minutes of cooling down at around 50% intensity (just as you started).
Almost everyone with a pulse seems to know that aerobic exercise is good for you. In fact, most people appear to even know that it's good for your heart. Here's the thing, though. Until recently, we didn't know as much about why as we now do. However, some light is now being shed on this.
But enough on that for now. First, let's talk about how it all works.
How aerobic exercise works in your body
During aerobic exercise, glycogen is broken down into glucose. In its absence, fat metabolism is initiated.
Even more specifically, approximately two minutes into aerobic activity the body begins to try and supply working muscles with oxygen. When this occurs, glucose can be knocked down into carbon dioxide and water (called aerobic respiration). The aforementioned glucose can come from several different spots including:
1. glycogen supplies in the muscles 2. the liver via the bloodstream when glycogen is broken down there into glucose 3. the intestines when glucose has been absorbed from food (again via the bloodstream)
Aerobic respiration also sometimes utilizes fatty acids from fat reserves in the muscle and body to produce Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). ATP is a complex chemical compound formed with the energy released from food and stored in all cells, particularly muscles. When this compound is broken down energy is released and the cells can finally perform work.
Basically, aerobic respiration would use carbohydrates, fats, and then proteins in that order.
The benefits of aerobic exercise
The benefits of aerobic exercise can be found in both one's health and performance. Here are some health benefits in list order:
1. Aerobic exercise helps strengthen the muscles involved in respiration. Thus, the flow of air in and out of the lungs is aided. 2. Aerobic exercise strengthens and enlarges the heart muscle. In other words, aerobic exercise can help the heart pump more effectively and can reduce its resting rate (thereby improving blood pressure). 3. Muscle tone can improve. Beyond looking good, this can improve circulation and blood pressure. 4. Aerobic exercise can increase red blood cell count, which will aid in the transport of oxygen in the body. 5. Remember the brief snippet regarding how we are learning more about what aerobic exercise does for us earlier in this article? Well, a study by Richard P. Sloan, professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, was the catalyst behind this new information. In this study, blood samples were taken from healthy 46 year- old adults. So what, you ask? Well, these samples were taken both before and after a participating in moderate or high intensity aerobic exercise for a 12 week period. Interestingly, the blood results indicated that lower levels of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) were found after aerobic training. What does that mean? Let's hear it in Dr. Sloan's own words:
"These findings suggest strongly that exercise reduces the systemic inflammation that can lead to heart disease. This study is especially significant because the value of exercise has never before been shown in TNF, and never in healthy adults who were not at high risk for heart disease."
Now onto the performance benefits of aerobic exercise
1. Increased storage of energy molecules in muscles. This makes for increased endurance. 2. Neovascularization of the muscle sarcomeres to increase blood flow through the muscles. 3. The speed of which aerobic metabolism happens increases with aerobic activity in muscles. Thus, more energy can be generated aerobically. 4. Recovery speed increases.
Things that destroy the positive things that aerobic exercise can bring about
Smoking: Smokers are 2-4 times more likely to develop coronary heart disease than nonsmokers. In addition, smoking doubles the likeliness of a stroke. Further it narrows the blood vessels, reducing circulation.
Alcohol consumption: Moderate drinking may actually promote cardiovascular health as per some studies. However, heavy drinking causes inflammation of the liver (alcoholic hepatitis), can lead to scarring of the liver (cirrhosis), can increase blood pressure, and damage the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy).
Drug use: There are too many drugs to name here. But the end result is this: illegal drug use can cause cardiovascular disease and far more.
Thus, when you put it altogether aerobic exercise is a wonderful thing. However, smoking, heavy drinking, and drug use are practices that act in a counter productive manner to these benefits.
So don't do them, people. And happy aerobic training!