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Aerobic exercise

Aerobic exercise is complementary to anaerobic exercise. Aerobic literally means 'with oxygen', and refers to the use of oxygen in the energy-generating process for muscles. Aerobic exercise describes any type of exercise, typically performed at moderate levels of intensity for extended periods of time that increases your heart rate. Oxygen, fats, and glucose are used to produce adenosine triphosphate, the basic fuel for all cells.

There are various types of aerobic exercise. In general, aerobic exercise is one that is performed at a moderately high level of intensity over a long period of time. For example, running a long distance at a moderate pace is an aerobic exercise, but sprinting is not.

Aerobic exercise confers many health benefits. It burns calories very effectively and, if performed regularly, can also increase the basal metabolic rate, both of which aid in weight loss. This form of exercise was first promoted by Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper in the 1960s, as a type of training designed to strengthen the heart and the lungs. When test subjects participated in regular, vigorous aerobic exercise, they gained a number of health benefits, which he collectively called the aerobic 'Training Effect'. These benefits include:

  • Strengthening the muscles involved in respiration, to facilitate the flow of air in and out of the lungs.
  • Strengthening the heart muscle, to improve its pumping efficiency and reduce the resting heart rate.
  • Toning muscles throughout the body, which can improve overall circulation and reduce blood pressure.
  • Increasing the total number of red blood cells in the body, to facilitate transport of oxygen throughout the body.

Regular, vigorous aerobic activity can, therefore, reduce the risk of death due to cardiovascular problems. In addition, high-impact aerobic activities (such as jogging or jumping rope) can stimulate bone growth, and reduce the risk of osteoporosis for both women and men.

'Aerobics' is a particular form of aerobic exercise. Aerobics classes generally involve rapid stepping patterns, performed to music with cues provided by an instructor. This type of aerobic activity became quite popular after the 1970 publication of Dr. Cooper's book 'The New Aerobics', and went through a brief period of intense popularity in the 1980s, when many celebrities (such as Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons) produced videos or created television shows promoting this type of aerobic exercise. From a class activity perspective, aerobics can be divided into two major forms: Freestyle Aerobics and Pre-choreographed Aerobics.

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Aerobic Capacity

This is a term that is used to describe the functional status of the cardiorespiratory system, for example, your heart, lungs, or blood vessels. Aerobic capacity is defined as the maximum volume of oxygen consumed by the muscles during exercise. To measure your maximal aerobic capacity, an exercise physiologist or physician typically will have you exercise on a treadmill. He or she will initially ask you to walk at an easy pace, and then, at set time intervals during graded exercise test, will gradually increase the workload. The higher your cardiorespiratory endurance level, the more oxygen you can transport to exercising muscles and the longer you can exercise without being exhausted. The higher your aerobic capacity is, the higher level of aerobic fitness.

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History

The term, and exercise method, was developed by Kenneth Cooper, M.D. an exercise physiologist then of the U.S. Air Force. Dr. Cooper, an avowed exercise enthusiast, was personally and professionally puzzled about why some people who had excellent muscular strength were still prone to poor performance in tasks such as long-distance running, swimming and bicycling. He began measuring systematic human performance using a bicycle ergometer, and began measuring sustained performace in terms of the ability to utilize oxygen.

His ground-breaking book, Aerobics was published in 1969, and included scientific exercise programs using running, walking, swimming and bicycling. The book came at a fortuitous historical moment, when increasing weakness and inactivity in the general population was causing a perceived need for increased exercise. It therefore became a best-seller.

Cooper's scientific data provided the scientific baseline for almost all modern aerobics programs, most of which are based on oxygen-consumption equivalency.

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Critiques

When generalized fitness is a professional operational requirement, as for athletes, combat services, police and fire personnel, aerobic exercise alone may not provide a well-balanced exercise program. In particular, muscular strength, especially upper-body muscular strength is usually neglected. Also, metabolic paths involved in anaerobic metabolism: ATP and glycolysis are not exercised at peak rates, and these are important for peak performance of many tasks. Aerobics is, however, an extremely valuable component of a balanced exercise program.

Some persons have repetitive stress injuries with some forms of aerobics. They should choose less-injurious "low impact" forms.

Aerobics notably does not increase the resting metabolic rate as much as some forms of weight-training, and may therefore be less effective at reducing obesity.