The word “aerobic”, in relation to exercise, may conjure up one of the following images in your mind:
- A class of individuals on a gymnasium floor stepping up and down to music.
- A vision of Jane Fonda on an exercise video.
- Jack Lalane swimming from Alcatraz to prove his aerobic ability.
- Burning fat with a morning jog.
Aerobic. Now, think of the word’s actual, biological definition: “Relating to, involving or requiring free oxygen”. Think of it as sustainable work. This changes your view of it from a process you have to do to something that just is. When we recognize what “aerobic” actually is, then we as humans can try to understand what it means to us. We are all unique in our fitness journeys and we choose certain methods of exercise for different reasons. In this post, I want to make the case for aerobic work and show you how it can help you live happily and fully, while keeping common sense and biology in mind.
I’ll save you the history lesson on practices in aerobic work but, put briefly, for a long time aerobic exercise was only used for military purposes or for the elite in sport. In the 1970s and into the 1980s it began to arrive in mainstream culture – but its primary aim was to improve how you looked as opposed to enhancing your performance and longevity. The truth of the matter is that aerobic work takes time to develop. Every human has the ability to do it, and in multiple ways. Unfortunately, doing faster, shorter, high intensity intervals will not fast track you to awesome aerobic capability. For example: Say you do twenty seconds of aerobic exercise really hard, rest for one minute and repeat the exercise, as hard as you can, four more times? Yes, your heart will be pounding, but this is only an eight-minute workout. Eight minutes! If you think about it logically, how much good can those eight minutes really do you? Well, perhaps they may do you a little good, but the problem with this regime is that the effort involved puts your body under an undue amount of stress relative to the amount of work done and benefit gained.
It’s also worth pointing out that, just because there is “valid scientific data” stating that aerobic exercise improves aspects of how oxygen is delivered within your body, this will not help you if you want to, say, walk better for 90 minutes, or hike up a mountain. If you only rely on twenty seconds on, one min off x five, you will adapt to twenty seconds on, one minute off x five.
One of the many burning questions people have for me as a fitness expert is: “What Aerobic exercise should I do?” My answer is in two parts:
- It depends!
- What are your goals?
This highlights the issue with aerobic work. It is sustainable, longer work over longer periods of time. If you can’t fit it into your life, that doesn’t mean it’s the wrong exercise choice for you. It could be just what your body needs, and if it’s right for your body, you need to honor that and make it a part of your lifestyle.
So, if aerobic exercise feels right for you, how do you get started? The simple answer is: MOVE! That’s it. Isn’t it kind of nice that it’s that easy? Here are a few ideas for you, and I’m sure you’ll come up with some good ones of your own:
- Go for a long walk with your kids and enjoy the outdoors while you keep moving and discovering new things along your trail.
- Learn how to ride a bike again and perhaps share a bike ride with friends.
- Go for a walk at lunch time so that you get out of the desk area and move around
- Take a walk in your neighborhood and find somewhere new.
- Learn a new sustainable and fun skill like paddle boarding, kayaking, rowing on the erg, jump rope or Tai Chi.
The suggestions above are all simple examples that help you build up a good relationship with aerobic exercise in numerous ways. They:
- Create an appreciation for the long game of aerobic work.
- Help you understand that aerobic just is what it is, aerobic, and nothing else – it’s not fat burning, nor performance enhancing. It’s simply a natural process which takes place within us.
- Help you move blood around your body, which has tremendous health benefits.
- Help you recover from intense periods and events in life, training, exercise and sport.
- Help connect you to your breath and the environment at the same time, should you get your exercise outdoors, which I highly recommend.
So in the end, we could say that “aerobic” just means moving for extended periods of time in a sustainable fashion. When one cannot sustain it, it’s not aerobic anymore, so take a break and recharge and then start over. Aerobic work has so many benefits for us. It’s inside us all.
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