Physical activity is anything that makes you move your body and burn calories. Housework, gardening, walking, stair climbing are all examples of physcial activity. These leisurely activies are important to every day healthy living, however, they are not considered exercise. Exercise is a specific form of physical activity — of moderate to vigorous intensity, performed with the intention of acquiring fitness or other health benefits.
Exercise is key to preventing heart disease, improving overall cardiovascular health, and lowering blood pressure. Some exercises are anaerobic while others are aerobic, or a mixture of both. Anaerobic exercises require a huge amount of energy, allowing your nervous system and muscles to produce large amounts of force. Sprinting, weight lifting, and jumping are examples of anaerobic exercise. Aerobic exercises provide a steady supply of energy to sustain muscle contractions. Examples of aerobic exercises include marathon running, long-distance cycling and walking.
Ideally an exercise program should include both aerobic and anaerobic exercises, but to get started I always stress creating a consistent aerobic exercise base first. Aerobic exercise comprises innumerable forms: brisk walking, running, bicycling, and swimming are all examples. No matter the activity chosen for exercise, the American Heart Association suggest at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week, or 30 minutes a day, 5 times per week.
Benefits of Aerobic Exercise
Engaging in aerobic exercise regularly has many positive benefits, such as: reduced cardiovascular risk factors (i.e. blood pressure, cholesterol, body composition), lower rate of colon cancer, osteoporosis, breast cancer, and diabetes type 2, healthy body weight, improved body temperature regulation, increase aerobic capacity, and performance in daily physical activities.
There are many ways to add aerobic exercise into your daily routine. The goal is to make it a habit by customizing your plan to your current health level and changing it up as you advance your practice. Aerobic physical activity has three components:
- Frequency: 2-5 times a week is recommended. Depending on what experience you are bringing to plate, you can start with 2 times a week and work your way up to 5. Frequency can vary also depending on your specific goals if they are other than general cardiovascular health and fitness.
- Duration: Start with 20 minutes as your first goal, 2 times a week. This can be 2 back to back activities for 10 min or a 10 minute brisk walk out from home and 10 minutes brisk walk back. Cardio duration needs to be a accumulative 20-60 min at one time.
- Intensity: Within two minutes of starting your activity, elevate your heart rate to a moderate intensity, measured at 65-85% of your maximum heart rate. The more fit you are the high in the range you can go. Your intensity can be subjectively gauged using Borg's scale of perceived exertion, such that your intensity is somewhat hard, between a 13 and 15, or estimated with a formula that uses your age (calculate here), tracked objectively using a heart rate monitor.
Important Note: A few high blood pressure medications lower the maximum heart rate and thus the target zone rate. If you're taking such medicine, call your physician to find out if you need to use a lower target heart rate.
Ready to Change it Up
This means you have your aerobic exercise frequency down 3 to 5 times week and you are doing your chosen activity anywhere from 30-60 minutes at a time. Feel free to to start including anaerobic exercises, such as strength training, or actvities that use aerobic and anaerobic systems interchangeably, such as recreational sports, interval running or cycling, into your routine. Once you have an aerobic base, the world is your oyster!
"ACSM Issues New Recommendations on Quantity and Quality of Exercise." American College of Sports Medicine. Web. 28 January, 2015. http://www.acsm.org/about-acsm/media-room/news-releases/2011/08/01/acsm-issues-new-recommendations-on-quantity-and-quality-of-exercise
Robb, Barbara and Jones, Niya. "Exercise and Physical Activity: What's the Difference?" 1 July, 2009. Web. 28, January, 2015. http://www.everydayhealth.com/fitness/basics/difference-between-exercise-and-physical-activity.aspx
"Target Heart Rates." American Heart Association. 8, January, 2015. Web. 28 January, 2015.
Ng, Nick. "Examples of Aerobic & Anaerobic Activities." Livestrong. 18 December, 2013. Web. 7 February, 2015 http://www.livestrong.com/article/358235-examples-of-aerobic-anaerobic-activities/