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Aerobic Exercise

During aerobic exercise the body releases chemical substances (endorphins) that are similar in nature to opiates. Aerobic exercise has been shown to be as effective as anti-depressant medication in relieving the symptoms of clinical depression.

Definition of Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic (meaning 'with oxygen') exercises are exercises that use the large muscles of your body - usually your arms and your legs - in repetitive and rhythmic movements - increasing the need for oxygen in the muscles being exercised. This increased need for oxygen is met through increased heart rate and respiration. So your heart and lungs also get a good work out.

Other Benefits of Aerobic Exercise

Not only do aerobics provide stress relief, aerobic exercise strengthens your cardiovascular system, improves your lung capacity, circulation, increases your endurance, strengthens your muscles and your bones, increases your 'good' cholesterol while lowering your 'bad' cholesterol, speeds up your metabolism, promotes weight loss, and improves your sleep.

*Aerobic exercises too close to your bedtime can keep you awake as your metabolism is raised for hours after aerobic activity.

Check with a doctor before getting into a fitness program. If you haven't exercised for a while, start out slowly.

Warm up Before Aerobic Exercise

Warming up for 5 minutes with some low intensity aerobic exercise helps your body adjust to the higher demands of moderate aerobic exercise by slowly increasing your heart rate, breath rate, and body temperature.

Warming up can be as simple as performing the same activity as you are about to perform but at a slower pace. A few stretching exercises will help prevent injures. Cooling down for about five minutes is also important. Cooling down helps your body slowly adjust to its resting state. Stretch the muscles in the legs (quads, hamstrings, and calves) afterwards.

Intensity and Impact

Intensity refers to how hard your heart and lungs and muscles have to work. e.g. high intensity aerobics are strenuous and increase your heart rate considerably.

Impact refers to the stress on your joints (hips, knees, ankles) when your feet hit the ground.

Low-impact Aerobics

One foot is on the ground at all times Brisk walking, marching. low-impact Aerobics are usually, but not always, also lower in intensity. You can increase the intensity of a low-impact workout by using larger movements or using both the upper and lower body simultaneously.

High-impact Aerobics

Any exercise where both feet leave the ground at the same time such as running or jumping, causing a large impact when coming back down. high-impact exercises are usually high intensity also. high-impact aerobics are not suitable for everyone and the risk of injury is higher than in low-impact aerobics.

Knee Exercises: Strengthen the knees to help prevent knee injuries during aerobic activity.

Maximum Heart Rate

Maximum heart rate is 220 - age per minute. (e.g.if you are 30 years old, 220 - 30 = 190, 60% of 190 = 114 beats per minute.) You should never try to exercise at the maximum heart rate. The resting heart rate becomes lower as the pumping efficiency of the heart becomes stronger. A beginner will reach their target heart rate quicker. As your fitness improves, you can increase your target heart rate to 70% and even 80%. It is safer to maintain a lower heart rate for a longer period of time.

Rather than checking your pulse, see if you can talk while exercising. You should be able to carry on a conversation while you work out. If you can't, slow down. Some people like to use a heart rate monitor. Before you go on to a high intensity activity such as running or walking uphill, you should gradually increase your time spent on the low intensity work out.

Beginners should start with low intensity aerobics .(e.g. 60% maximum heart rate as the target heart rate) such as walking.

Increase Intensity of Aerobic Exercise Slowly

Stationary bikes, elliptical trainers and treadmills have tension controls so you can gradually increase the intensity of your workout. Elliptical trainers provide an excellent cardio workout yet are low-impact . If you find these activities boring, you can always watch television or listen to music while doing them.

Step aerobics (stepping up and down from a 4 - 6 inch platform) can be high intensity while remaining low-impact if you are careful not to bounce and step with the heel first.

Walking is a good low-impact aerobic exercise and is low to medium in intensity. You burn the same calories walking a mile as you do running a mile. The difference is that walking a mile takes longer than running a mile. Walking, however, doesn't put anywhere near as much stress on the knees as running or jogging.

Walking can be done almost every day. If you are a beginner, you can start with 10 minutes, and increase it by a few minutes per day until you reach 30 minutes. You can break it into a few shorter walks. If you are really ambitious, you can build up to an hour, or simply increase the speed at which you walk to increase the intensity.

Safety Tips:

*Drink plenty of water, before, during and after your workout to replace water lost by perspiration. Drink two cups of water 15 minutes before you start out and a cup of water for every 15 minutes of aerobic exercise.

Walk on softer surfaces, such a dirt track. Walking along a cement sidewalk is more likely to jar and injure your joints (knees, ankles, hips). Wear shoes with adequate support and cushioning to help absorb impact.

If you are doing a high-impact aerobic activity that can be hard on your joints (such as jogging or running), take every other day off to give your body a chance to recover and repair.

Wait a couple of hours after a heavy meal before doing aerobic exercises. (During digestion, blood is diverted to your stomach) Wait about 20 minutes after exercising to have a meal.

Swimming is a no-impact aerobic exercise particularly good for people with arthritis.

Don't force yourself to exercise when you are ill - and don't feel guilty about it.

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