I love moving when I exercise, and sweating is “a good thing” as far as I’m concerned, so my friends and I do structured aerobic exercises 4-5 days a week. We also do body sculpting and resistance training with weights 3 days a week. Those other two days, we take our pick. Sometimes it’s Yoga and sometimes we do something really great like a walk in the woods or around a city we’re visiting. We also are game to try something new as long as we take a lesson or two before we begin.
These may well be aerobic, like mountain climbing or snorkeling, or a slow paced meditation class. Focusing on aerobics, in this type of exercise you use your large muscles rhythmically and continuously as you raise your heart beat and breathing for a sustained period of time. Low impact aerobics are easy to recognize because you always have at least one foot on the floor. There is no jarring, jumping, or damaging-of-knees heavy-duty swiveling. Some popular types of aerobic exercises include:
- Brisk walking
- Aerobic dancing
- Racket sports
- Ice and roller skating
- Cross-country or downhill skiing
- Using aerobic equipment like the treadmill, elliptical machine, stationary bikes etc)
Look at our other Burning Calorie article to find these and more.
Provisos must be made about aerobic exercise and the kind you select. The one you pick will depend on your goals, physical condition and medical conditions over the years. The best advice that experts give is to “cross train” which means to alternate exercise so that you reduce your risk for injuries and you don’t become bored doing the same exact thing every day.
Good advice is that you limit very strenuous exercise to every other day, but make that less often if your current health dictates it. We know you’ll talk to your physician or health care team before you begin a new exercise program. Exercise should make you feel better, not cause you more difficulties.
The beneficial results of aerobic exercise can not be under-valued. You can expect that your lungs will process more with less effort as you build stamina. You can also expect that your heart will pump more blood with fewer beats and the blood supply directed to your muscles will also increase. So, by being a part of an aerobic program you can increase your cardiovascular system’s endurance and efficiency. There are additional benefits to aerobic exercise:
- Increased resistance to fatigue and extra energy
- Toned muscles and increased lean body mass
- Decreased tension and easier sleeping
- Increased general stamina
- Psychological benefits-exercise improves mood, and reduces depression and anxiety
Experts agree that the length of time you exercise will depend on your goals, schedule and physical condition. Recent research that we have printed on this web site gives different times but they all agree that at least 30 minutes is minimal. If you want to lose weight, you’ll want to exercise longer. The truth is that your aerobic level can improve with as little as 10 minutes a few times a week. That’s a place to start, but with the help of your doctor you can set goals to increase your stamina and strength.
The intensity of aerobic exercise is measured in three ways:
- The exercise heart rate is the most precise. When you go to a class, you’ll see people with their fingers on their wrist or in the groove of the neck near the jaw, counting heartbeats and then multiplying to get the beats per minute. They are counting heartbeats to see if they are in the right target zone. Below we reprint such a chart.
Age Target Heart Rate Zone (50-75% of average maximum rate) 21-30 98-146 beats per minute 31-40 93-138 beats per minute 41-50 88-131 beats per minute 51-60 83-124 beats per minute 61+ 78-116 beats per minute
- The so-called “talk test.” For this one, you should be able to talk comfortably while you are exercising. This is an easy way to tell if you are over-doing it.
- In most gyms, you’ll see a chart of perceived exertion levels for exercises from very easy to very strenuous. Look for the chart and keep it in mind as you build up your stamina.
Don’t want to remember the chart?
- Find your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 200.
- Then find 50 and 75 percent of your maximum heart rate by multiplying that number by .50 and .75.
To find your heart rate, count the number of beats for 15 seconds, then multiply by four to get the beats per minute. Your heart rate should be in the target zone. If it is higher, you are exercising too hard and should slow down. If your heart rate is lower than your target zone, you should exercise a little harder. When you begin a new program aim for the lower limits of your range (50%) and work up to 75% slowly. If you think that exercising within your target range is too hard, exercise at a level that is more comfortable for you. The good thing about regular exercise is that you will be able to work up, over time, to a level within your range.
We get many e-mails about how often to exercise. The simple answer is 2 to 7 days a weeks. Under most circumstances if you exercise twice a week you’ll stay at the same fitness level you have achieved. If fat loss is your goal, then you better plan on exercising 6-7 days a week with low impact aerobics.
Remember, the more you do the aerobics, the more you need to add resistance training. Aerobics will not tone your body to any extent. The reason for this is that, during aerobic exercise, your large muscles perform hundreds of repetitive movements with low resistance. It’s the weight lifting or other resistance training that will tone you. Now, once again, if you are elderly, overweight, in rehab, or out of condition, you and your doctor should make up a schedule of how to increase your duration, intensity and frequency of aerobic exercise.
When we write these articles we always start or end with warning about the necessity to warm up and cool down. To warm up, try running or brisk walking in place, or even jumping jacks if your knees can take them. You can also get on a stationary bike and pedal away for five minutes at a brisk pace. Get the idea? Cooling down can be as simple as a slow jog or marching in place. This allows blood rich in oxygen to be distributed from the working muscles to the brain and other organs of the body, thus preventing blood from pooling in muscles that no longer are under stress.
This cool down prevents the dizziness, nausea, and muscle cramps that can occur after a workout. If you go to a gym, your instructor will take you through this process. After the cool down, try stretching to enhance muscle strength and flexibility. Read these articles to find out what experts suggest, in what we have written about these two processes. When you warm up and cool down you cut down on muscle strains and the pain. Do not stop and stand abruptly without cooling down. No fainting allowed.
Experts caution that it is not advisable to engage in vigorous activity when it is over 98°. That’s fine for the general population, but not for those of us with diabetes. Check with your physician. My rule is that I do not exercise outside if it in the high 80’s or if the heat index (temp. and humidity) is that high. As the weather gets hotter, I also tend to cut back on the intensity of my outdoor exercise to only low impact types. Your doctor will set guidelines for when to exercise in terms of meal times, etc., but do get a list of when not to exercise. For example, it is not a good ides to exercise when you have a fever, sore muscles and/or joints, vomiting or diarrhea, or a productive cough. Once your condition has run its course, you can get back to the exercise grind.
One more caution and we’re done for the month. You should not use alcohol before engaging in an aerobics program, because it increases fluid loss and dehydration from a workout. It is a no-brainer that drinking during exercise decreases coordination and masks the warning signs of fatigue that can result in injury.
So, I hope we have convinced you that aerobics should be an integral part of your exercise program. See your doctor, get the OK and make sure you have all of the carbohydrates and equipment you need to keep you healthy and safe while you exercise. Tell your teacher or a friend your signs of hypoglycemia so you will be safe, and go for it. Your mind and body will thank you.