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Aerobic conditioning is the ability of the heart, lungs, and circulatory system to supply oxygen and nutrients to the working muscles. It involves the ability to persist in activities, such as elliptical training, walking, jogging, and cycling. Improved aerobic endurance is associated with increased health and reduced risk of chronic disease, such as obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and stroke.
To experience the health benefits of aerobic endurance training, you should participate in prolonged aerobic exercise (eventually reaching 20 to 60 minutes of continuous training) at an intensity (or level) that stimulates the aerobic system. Fortunately, if you are a beginner who has been inactive for a long time, you can start with 5 to 10 minutes of aerobic exercise and still get aerobic health benefits. The intensity of aerobic exercise (or how hard you work) is simple to determine if you know how to measure your heart rate and if you pay attention to how you feel during a workout.
Measuring Heart Rate
The measurement of heart rate, or pulse, is represented in beats per minute (bpm). To assess heart rate, place your fingertips on either the radial or carotid pulse site. If you choose to take your pulse at the carotid side, avoid putting heavy pressure on the carotid arteries because they contain receptors that sense increases in pressure and respond by slowing the heart rate.
To determine the number of beats per minute, take the pulse rate, counting the first pulse beat as zero, for 10 seconds and then multiply by six.
Target Heart Rate
The rate at which your heart beats during exercise can be used to assess how hard you are working. When performing light to moderate exercise, your heart rate increases as your work rate increases. This ensures that blood gets to the muscles so that they can get the oxygen and nutrients they need to continue working.
Being able to measure your heart rate allows you to determine aerobic exercise intensity by taking your pulse during the workout and comparing it to your target heart rate. A common method to determine your target heart rate is based on a percentage of your estimated maximum heart rate. Input your age in the prompt below and the calculator will produce a range in which to keep your heart rate during aerobic exercise.
Now that you know your target heart rate range, you can check your pulse at regular intervals (every 5 to 10 minutes) during the workout session and compare your exercise heart rate to your target heart rate. If your exercise heart rate is below the target range, increase your pace or effort slightly to achieve the proper intensity. If your exercise heart rate is above the target range, decrease your pace or effort slightly to remain with the range.
While this method is widely used in the fitness industry, it can be inaccurate for many people. Therefore, gauging intensity using a percentage of predicted maximum heart rate should be used along with another method to ensure appropriate exercise intensity. A commonsense method called perceived exertion should always be used in conjunction with other heart rate-monitoring methods. Perceived exertion is a technical description of simply paying attention to how you feel during a workout.
How Do You Feel During A Workout?
Exercising at an appropriate intensity should feel somewhat challenging, but it should also feel like you could continue on for a prolonged time period. If you are working at too easy of an intensity, you will still receive some health benefits but you will not experience the calorie-burning effect and the aerobic benefit that you would if you were working at an appropriate intensity. If you are working too hard, you won’t last very long because you will become extremely fatigued and run the risk of injuring yourself in the process.
A quick, easy way to evaluate intensity is to check your ability to breathe and talk. You should be able to breathe fairly comfortably and rhythmically throughout all phases of a workout to ensure a safe and comfortable level of exercise, especially if you’re just beginning an exercise program. You should also be able to talk continuously, completing short sentences with no problem. If you cannot carry on a conversation, you may be working too hard. While you should challenge yourself, use this gauge of monitoring your ability to talk continuously for 10 – 20 seconds as an effective guideline.
Heart Rate Training Zones
Another way to evaluate your aerobic exercise intensity is to compare how you feel to an established guide, such as a heart rate training zone. For our purposes and for new exercisers, training target zones can be thought of as a traffic light where the green, yellow, and red lights correspond to the intensity of exercise. That is, the green training zone represents an appropriate level of intensity (light to moderate exercise) that indicates “continue,” like a green traffic light. The yellow training zone indicates an intensity that is moderate to vigorous, and if performed for too long could result in fatigue. When training in the yellow zone (moderate to vigorous exercise), an exerciser should slow down or proceed with caution if the intensity feels too high, similar to the rules for a yellow traffic light. Lastly, exercising at a very vigorous pace or very high intensity reflects training in the red zone, which corresponds to a red traffic light, which means stop.
Exercise in the red zone may be harmful to beginners or people with health conditions and should be reserved for those who are experienced exercisers or under the care of a trained health professional.