Definition of aerobic training

Written by kyle clayton
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Definition of aerobic training
The capacity to use oxygen is called the VO2 max. (run image by Byron Moore from Fotolia.com)

The word aerobic means "with oxygen." The aerobic system is used for low to middle levels of exertion that take place over an extended period of time, and unlike the other two energy systems, the energy it produces relies on the oxygen you consume during training. Aerobics are a popular way to get into shape. Understanding their functions and the potential side effects will allow you to better tailor a training programme.

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Significance

Aerobic exercise increases the capacity of your body to produce ATP, which is stored energy, through the oxidative process. Your body has three energy systems, and the aerobic energy system is the last to kick in. The aerobic oxidative system begins supplying your body with energy after three minutes of exercise, and as exercise time increases, it becomes the primary system for energy supply. Aerobic exercise will increase efficiency of this system, which in turn makes activities like walking and biking easier.

Function

The aerobic energy system uses carbohydrates as a source for ATP production. As you exert yourself longer and longer, carbohydrates take a larger role in supplying energy to your muscles. During the early stages of exercise, the aerobic energy system shares the load with the anaerobic energy systems. The systems are not mutually exclusive and may overlap during any activity that requires short bursts of energy over a longer period of time. Without the aerobic energy system, your muscles would expend themselves quickly and you would have no energy for activities over an extended period of time.

Effects

Aerobic exercise has both acute and chronic responses. The short-term, acute responses include increased heart rate and volume, and increased oxygen delivery. The long-term, chronic effects include an increase in the maximum output level of the heart, as well as a decreased fatigue threshold in the muscles. What this means is that aerobic exercise improves the efficiency of the body's muscles and organs when performing aerobic activities. Exertion during aerobic activity also burns calories, which can result in fat loss.

Types

Anything can be an aerobic exercise, as long as it is low to middle intensity and lasts longer than three minutes, though ideally no less than 20 minutes. Activities include walking, running, cycling, rowing, hiking and swimming, assuming these forms of exercise last for the appropriate amount of time and occur at a steady pace. There is no upper limit to how long aerobic exercises can last, but long periods of aerobic training have significant drawbacks.

Warning

Overtraining in aerobic exercise leads to catabolic hormone production, which breaks down muscle and causes free radical damage. Fitness writer and former triathlete Mark Sisson theorises that humans are not adapted for excessive aerobic training, according to the article, "A Case Against Cardio." He states that our ancestors would never have consistently run for miles on end, and that there is no benefit to doing so from a hunter-gatherer perspective. Therefore, it's a modern phenomenon. Many world-class endurance athletes have developed heart problems early in life, such as PowerBar founder Brian Maxwell, who died at age 51, and Ironman champion Greg Welch, who has had 10 open-heart surgeries since retiring from competition. Aerobic exercise may be most beneficial when kept to a low intensity and shorter time period of under 90 minutes.

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