Table of Contents
- Recommended Exercise Methods
- Exercise's Effects on the Heart
- Exercise's Effects on Diabetes
- Exercise's Effects on Bones and Muscles
- Exercise's Effects on the Lungs
- Exercise's Effects on Weight
- Exercise's Effects on Other Conditions
- Protection from heart attack, stroke, diabetes, dementia, depression, colon and breast cancers, and early death
- Builds endurance
- Keeps the heart pumping at a steady and high rate for a long time
- Boosts HDL ("good") cholesterol levels
- Helps control blood pressure
- Strengthens the bones in the spine
- Helps maintain normal weight
- Improves one's sense of well-being
Types of Aerobic Exercise. Aerobic exercise is usually categorized as high or low intensity. High intensity aerobic exercise is further classified as high or low impact. Examples of each include the following:
- Low- to moderate-impact exercises: Walking, swimming, stair climbing, step classes, rowing, and cross-country skiing. Nearly anyone in reasonable health can engage in some low- to moderate-impact exercise. Brisk walking burns as many calories as jogging for the same distance and poses less risk for injury to muscle and bone.
- High-impact exercises: Running, dance exercise, tennis, racquetball, squash. High impact exercises are excellent for cardiovascular conditioning, but they increase the risk of complications and are generally not suitable for people who are overweight, elderly, out of condition, or have an injury, arthritis, or other medical problem.
|Click the icon to see an image of aerobic exercise.|
Aerobic Regimens. As little as 1 hour a week of aerobic exercises is helpful, but 3 - 4 hours per week are best. Some research indicates that simply walking briskly for 3 or more hours a week reduces the risk for coronary heart disease by 45%. In general, the following guidelines are useful for most individuals:
- For most healthy young adults, the best approach is a mix of low- and higher-impact exercise. Two weekly workouts will maintain fitness, but three to five sessions a week are better.
- People who are out of shape or elderly should start aerobic training gradually. For example, they may start with 5 - 10 minutes of low-impact aerobic activity every other day and build toward a goal of 30 minutes per day, three to seven times a week. (For heart protection, weekly total is the key.)
- Swimming is an ideal exercise for many elderly people, and for certain people with physical limitations. People with physical limitations include pregnant women, individuals with muscle, joint, or bone problems, and those who suffer from exercise-induced asthma.
- People who seek to lose weight should concentrate on calories burnt each week, not the number of workout sessions.
One way of gauging the aerobic intensity of exercise is to aim for a "talking pace," which is enough to work up a sweat and still be able to converse with a friend without gasping for breath. As fitness increases, the "talking pace" will become faster and faster.
Shoes. All that's really necessary for a workout is a good pair of shoes that are made well and fit well. They should be broken in, but not worn down. They should support the ankle and provide cushioning for walking as well as for impact sports such as running or aerobic dancing. Airing out the shoes and feet after exercising reduces chances for skin conditions such as athlete's foot.
Clothing. Comfort and safety are the key words for workout clothing. For outdoor nighttime exercise, a reflective vest and light-colored clothing must be worn. Bikers, inline skaters, and equestrians should always wear safety devices such as helmets, wrist guards, and knee and elbow pads. Goggles are mandatory for indoor racquet sports. For vigorous athletic activities, such as football, ankle braces may be more effective than tape in preventing ankle injuries.
Aerobic-Exercise Equipment. Home aerobic exercise machines can be adapted to any fitness level and used day or night. Before investing in any exercise machine, however, it is wise to first test it at a gym. In addition, initial supervised training when using these machines can reduce the risk of injury that might occur with self-instruction.
Very inexpensive exercise machines tend to be flimsy and hard to adjust, but many sturdy machines are available at moderate prices. The higher-end models may utilize computers to record calories burned, speed, and mileage. Their readouts may provide motivation and gauge the intensity of a workout; however, they are not always accurate.
The following are a few observations on specific equipment:
- A good floor mat is important to provide cushioning for all home exercises.
- A simple jump rope improves aerobic endurance for people who are able to perform high-impact exercise. Jumping rope should be done on a floor mat plus a surface that has some give to avoid joint injury.
- For burning calories, the treadmill has been ranked best, followed by stair climbers, the rowing machine, cross-country ski machine, and stationary bicycle. (Elliptical trainers, however, may be even better than treadmills for increasing heart rate, calorie expenditure, and oxygen consumption.)
- Stationary bikes condition leg muscles and are fairly economical and easy to use safely. The pedals should turn smoothly, the seat height should adjust easily, and the bike's computer should be able to adjust intensity.
- Stair machines also condition leg muscles. They offer very intense, low-impact workouts and may be as effective as running with less chance of injury.
Rowing and cross-country ski machines exercise both the upper and lower body.
Shoes for Sports
Sufficient cushioning to absorb shock and pressure that are many times greater than ordinary walking. Arches that maintain side-to-side stability. Thick upper leather support. Toe-box. Orthotics may be required for people with ankles that over-turn inward or outward. Soles should allow for twisting and turning.
Rigid support across the arch to distribute pressure during pedaling. Heel lift. Cross-training or combination hiking/cycling shoes may be sufficient for casual bikers. Toe clips or specially designed shoe cleats for serious cyclers. In some cases, orthotics may be needed to control arch and heel and balance forefoot.
Sufficient cushioning to absorb shock and pressure. Flexible at the ball of the foot. Sufficient traction on sole to prevent slipping. Consider insoles or orthotics with arch support for problem feet.
Low-traction soles. Snug fitting heels with cushioning. Padded toe box with adequate depth. Soft-support arch.
Lightweight. Breathable upper material (leather or mesh). Wide enough to accommodate ball of the foot. Firm padded heel counter that does not bite into heel or touch ankle bone. Low heel close to ground for stability. Good arch support. Front provides support and flexibility.
Review Date: 05/08/2011
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.