The Value of Aerobic Exercise and How to Know if You’re Getting the Most Out of Your Workout


First used by Dr. Kenneth Cooper, an exercise physiologist at the San Antonio Air Force Hospital, the term “aerobics” has since acquired common usage. He gave the rule of thumb that you should train with your heart rate at 60-80% of your age minus 220. He coined the term “aerobics” to aid astronauts but quickly understood its broad applicability. Dr. Cooper noted a decrease in body fat and an improvement in cardiac function as positive effects.

Dr. Cooper’s formula has been refined since then, and other studies have shown the various advantages of aerobic exercise.

Aerobic exercise is excellent for losing and keeping off excess fat.
Strength and vitality that lasts longer
Elevated spirits
Reduction of Pain (through the Body’s Endorphins)
Improved cardiac health and blood flow (which aids in preventing atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases).
Improved adrenal function and blood sugar regulation
Reduce blood stress
Better bone density (aerobic exercise involving weight bearing reduces osteoporosis risk).
Improved resistance to illness
Increased longevity
You probably aren’t receiving enough aerobic exercise if you have little energy, limited stamina, frequent aches and pains, excess body fat, high-stress levels, and a craving for sugary or starchy foods.

Whether you’re doing aerobic or anaerobic exercise depends on how long hard you work out. Aerobic exercise calls for a very particular intensity, which must be maintained for at least thirty minutes. Anaerobic exercise results from a low or high (or fluctuating) heart rate during physical activity.

Anaerobic activity relies on the breakdown of glucose for fuel. The term “anaerobic” refers to the fact that oxygen is not necessary for creating energy in this way. Sugar combustion can boost speed and power in the short term. However, sugar is quickly converted to fat, so working muscles tire quickly. Most individuals get plenty of anaerobic exercises; even sitting still, your body performs some functions that require little or no oxygen. In addition, because they involve periods of intense effort followed by periods of rest, almost all sports can be classified as anaerobic.

True aerobic activity causes the body to use fat stores as a fuel source. Because oxygen is necessary for this process, it is known as “aerobic.” Aerobic exercise is beneficial because it increases muscle endurance (the amount of time a person can go without tiring out). This is especially crucial for the muscles that help maintain proper posture, healthy joints, and healthy foot arches. Joint issues, injuries, and lack of stamina are more likely to occur if these muscles don’t get adequate aerobic exercise.

Our understanding of aerobic exercise and endurance training has been drastically altered because of the work of Dr. Phil Maffetone, a researcher and author with a global reputation. Dr. Maffetone examined the heart rates, gaits, and muscular imbalances of many athletes before and after their workouts. He discovered that athletes who followed Dr. Cooper’s original prescription frequently overtrained, leading to problems like overuse injuries, postural distortions, discomfort, and joint inflammation. Dr. Maffetone spent a lot of time perfecting a formula for determining an individual’s optimal heart rate for optimal aerobic training.

Aerobic exercise and its many benefits can be achieved by following only four easy steps:

A heart rate monitor is a must-have item. Neither the “feel” of a workout nor educated guesswork can tell you whether your heart rate is too low or too high during exercise. You can pick from a wide variety of manufacturers and styles. Polar TM is often regarded as a secure bet because it is a market leader. A model that has both a chest strap and a wristwatch/display is my top pick. If you prefer working out in a gym over the great outdoors, it is important to purchase a model that has been coded to prevent electrical signal interference from other devices.

Find your MAF by using the formula developed by Dr. Maffetone.

Reduce 180 by your age in years. The maximum heart rate of a 32-year-old who wishes to engage in aerobic exercise is 148 beats per minute. This formula is subject to the following variations and caveats:

If you’re taking any medications regularly or are recovering from a serious illness or surgery, subtract ten beats per minute from your maximum heart rate.
If you’re injured, have recently experienced a decline in training or competition, have had more than two episodes of the common cold or flu in the past year, suffer from allergies or asthma, are just starting in your training, or haven’t been training consistently (Dr. Maffetone defines consistency as training at least four times per week for at least two years), subtract 5 from your maximum heart rate.
If you have been training regularly for over 2 years without any injuries or issues, and you have made improvements in competition, then add 5 to your maximum heart rate.
If you are over 65, add 10 to your maximum heart rate.
Athletes who are younger than 16 years old are excluded from this calculation. The optimal maximum heart rate for these athletes is 165.
In case of uncertainty, go with the lower upper limit of heart rate.
Third, determine your lowest possible aerobic heart rate. Take your highest aerobic heart rate and deduct 10. Our 32-year-old healthy example would therefore have a range from 148 to 138.

Wearing a heart rate monitor while you exercise is a good idea. Maintain an aerobic heart rate for at least 30 minutes on three separate occasions per week. Without a doctor’s supervision, I wouldn’t go longer than 90 minutes.

Aerobic exercise is surprisingly simple to perform. Getting your heart rate into the optimal range doesn’t need much effort. That’s great news for sedentary people (talk about working out more Innovative rather than harder!), but it might be not very pleasant for athletes who don’t want to train any less intensely. But it’s for the athletes’ good that they take these precautions. The good news for athletes is that they will soon be able to increase their speed without going over their maximal aerobic heart rate as their hearts get more aerobically fit. If you start using a heart rate monitor, you’ll quickly learn that anything you do that isn’t a steady-state aerobic activity, like running, walking, cycling, or swimming is anaerobic.

As a chiropractor, acupuncturist, and athlete, I can attest to the many health benefits of regular aerobic exercise for both myself and my patients. The payoffs, both short-term and long-term, are substantial.

Dr. Margarite Melikian practices chiropractic medicine and acupuncture. Kinesis Healthcare is her business, and she runs it out of Glen Ellyn, Illinois. Visit this Glen Ellyn acupuncturist’s website for more details.

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