Aerobic exercise is key to fitness

Aerobic exercise is best defined as activity that improves the use of oxygen by the human body.

The term was first popularized by Dr. Kenneth Cooper, an Air Force physician, who published a book in 1968 titled “Aerobics.” His book was the result of research explaining why people with excellent physical strength could not perform well on tasks involving running, swimming and bicycling.

The target organs for this part of an exercise program are the heart and lungs. Increasing the ability for these organs to better utilize oxygen will impact all phases of human performance.

The human brain especially benefits from improved aerobic capacity. Studies have now demonstrated increased cognitive abilities along with benefits for patients suffering from migraines. The progression of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s is slower in those who are aerobically fit.

Aerobic exercise involves the use of large muscles in repetitious and rhythmic movement. Walking is probably the best example and a great way to start. After consulting with a physician, gradually increasing speed and distance will lead to weight loss, improved mood and better stamina.

“The key to an effective aerobic regimen is variety,” said Marc Nee, a local personal trainer and owner of Training with Heart who works with clients of all ages and abilities. “Each workout should include three different aerobic activities such as biking, walking and stairs for ten minutes each. Variety combats boredom and allows athletes to use different muscles.”

Pedometers are an inexpensive way to measure the number of steps taken during the course of a day. A goal of 10,000 steps is the equivalent of five miles.

Although 30 minutes three times per week is recommended, all experts agree that any movement is an important start. While aerobic exercise is a critical part of any workout, weight training is an important component to be discussed in next week’s column.

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