Aerobic exercise conditions the cardiovascular system and improves
performance in sports that require endurance, such as running and
jogging. By conditioning the cardiovascular system, aerobics
contributes to overall health and enhances the ability to use oxygen.
Perhaps the best way to describe how aerobics works is to explain
how exercise improves the body’s ability to perform. Depending
on which exercises you do, you may develop strength, endurance,
stamina or power. However, as all sports trainers know, exercise is
“specific,” which means that specific exercises produce specific
results. For example, exercises designed strictly to improve strength
will not do much to improve your endurance. On the other hand, if
you train for endurance alone (for example, by doing only long-distance
running), you will not improve your strength significantly. This is
why you often see runners who couldn’t bench press 200 pounds if
their lives depended on it, and champion powerlifters who get out
of breath just running across the street.
HISTORY OF AEROBICS
Aerobic activity has been around since warm-blooded animals first started
running from predators. But “aerobics” as a popular type of exercise
activity came into international popularity in the 1970s and 80s as part of
the fitness movement in the United States. People wanted to lose weight,
slim down, be healthy, and improve the quality of their lives. Aerobic
training provided a means of accomplishing some of these goals. At first
jogging and running were the most popular forms of aerobic activity.
Dr. Kenneth Cooper, James Fixx, and others wrote books on aerobics,
running and the benefits of cardiovascular conditioning. Later, as trainers
became more experienced in the ways in which aerobic benefits could be
achieved and as more and more people were caught up in the fitness
movement and began to join health clubs, different forms of aerobic
training evolved. One of the most popular forms of aerobic training is
aerobic dance. Aerobic dance involves stepping, jumping, spinning and
twisting motions that follow the beat of music played on a sound system.
The intensity of this form of exercise can be increased either by increasing
the tempo of the music, or by increasing the number or difficulty of the
dance movements. Aerobic dance is usually done in large groups, but can
be done alone if desired. One can dance aerobically regardless of the type
of music. However, the most popular aerobic dance music is rock, because
of the fast rhythms and heavy beat. Another form of aerobic training is
called “circuit training.” Exercise machines by Universal, Nautilus, Cybex,
Hydragym, Soloflex and other manufacturers enable a person to move
rapidly from one machine to another with only a brief rest period between
sets. Thus by using light weights and high repetitions on all the movements,
these resistance-exercise machines can become aerobic-exercise machines.
HOW AEROBIC TRAINING WORKS
Depending on whether you are training for endurance and aerobic benefits
or for strength, you will work different types of muscle fibers. Muscles are
made up chiefly of two types of fibers: (1) slow-twitch red fibers and (2)
fast-twitch white fibers. The red fibers contract more slowly than the white
fibers, but demand a grater amount of oxygen to do their work.
White fibers contract faster than the reds, but demand less oxygen.
Aerobic exercise is a type of endurance training, and chiefly works the red
muscle fibers, thus increasing the demand for oxygen. As the oxygen
demand is increased, the cardiovascular system (the heart and lungs) is
forced to work harder. In normal persons who have no cardiovascular
disease, aerobic exercise increases muscular endurance and improves the
ability of the cardiovascularsystem to meet greater oxygen demands. By
contrast, strength training chiefly works the white muscle fibers. The most
effective method of strength training is done with what is called
“progressive resistance” exercises in which both the resistance and the
number of repetitions of the exercise movements are increased over a
specified period of time. In short, working the white muscle fibers with
progressive resistance exercises makes you stronger. So if you want to
improve your muscular strength (lifting heavier weights, etc.), you must do
progressive resistance exercises in which you do a small number of
repetitions with increasing resistance over a short period of time. If you
want to improve the action of your heart and lungs while developing
muscular endurance (running, etc.), you must do aerobic exercises with
many repetitions with less resistance over a long period of time. But
remember that the best training program is one that includes both aerobic
and strength training. The “aerobic effect” of cardiovascular conditioning
is achieved by reaching a target pulse rate. Trainers disagree about which
pulse rate is an appropriate target and how long that pulse rate must be
maintained. For example, Dr. Gabe Mirkin, who does the radio
mini-programs called “Dr. Gabe Mirkin on Fitness,” says that to achieve
cardiovascular fitness, you must push your heartbeat to more than 60
percent of its maximum for at least 30 minutes three times a week. On the
other hand, Dr. Paul DeVore, in an article, “Cardiovascular Benefits of
StrengthTraining Exercises” (Iron Man Magazine, July, 1979) holds that the
correct target pulse rate is between 70 and 85 per cent of the maximum
heart rate as figured according to age-adjusted maximal heart rate charts.
According to DeVore, these heart rates need be sustained for only 10 to 12
minutes for aerobic conditioning. Dr. Kenneth Cooper, in his book,
Aerobics, claims that a target pulse rate of 60 to 85 percent of
maximum should be maintained for between 12 to 30 minutes, and
repeated at least several times a week. Opinions thus vary about the
number of beats per minute, the length of the workout at the target rate,
and the number of workouts needed per week to achieve cardiovascular
fitness. So don’t be surprised if you find contradictory figures from the
many people who write about aerobics and cardiovascular conditioning.
SAMPLE AEROBIC EXERCISES
Aerobic exercises are sometimes categorized as “high impact” and “low
impact.” High-impact exercises involve movements that compress the
ankle, knee and hip joints. Examples would include jogging on pavement
or fast aerobic dancing with repeated jumps, done to a fast tempo on a
hard gym floor. Low-impact exercises are those which do not involve
compressing the joints. An example would be circuit training with
exercise machines, in which movements are done smoothly with no
jumping or sudden pushing motions, or aerobic dancing that does not
involve repeated jumping.
After a few minutes of stretching exercises, start to jog slowly,
gradually increasing your speed. Don’t run (don’t have bothfeet off the
ground at the same time) and don’t shuffle (don’t slide your feet). After
a few minutes, look at your watch or pulse meter and increase or
decrease your speed until you reach your target pulse rate. Sustain that
rate for the duration of the session.
Put a fairly fast number on your hi-fi, CD player or radio. Turn the
volume up so you can hear the beat. Warm up, then start slowly with
dance movements or familiar floor exercises to the rhythm of the music.
Make jumping jacks a dance movement by varying the direction of the
jumps. Make twisting movements an aerobic exercise by doing them to
fast music. Check your pulse, achieve the target rate, and sustain that
rate for the duration of the session.
Circuit training involves moving from one exercise machine to another
with little or no rest between machines, until you have completed a
circuit through a specified number of machines. Machines are better
than free weights for circuit training, since you can change the amount
of resistance quickly and easily by placing a pin or turning a dial,
instead of having to load or unload plates and tighten barbell collars. If
you belong to a health club that has a complete line of exercise
machines, do the following:
1. Achieve your target pulse rate by varying the: amount of weight or
resistance number of repetitions speed with which the repetitions are
done duration of each set on a specific machine duration of the rest
period between machines.
2. Use the machines that accomplish the following exercises. Be sure to
do the exercises in the order listed so that you can pace yourself. You
will alternate between large and small muscle mass exercises. Also, you
need to learn two terms that are used in all sports training: “extend” and
“flex.” When you straighten your arm or leg (as in a pushing movement),
you EXTEND the arm or leg. When you bend your arm at the elbow or
your leg at the knee, you FLEX the arm at the elbow and flex the leg at
the knee. These handy terms will help you understand the exercises.
Don’t forget to warm up before starting the circuit. Here are the exercises
by their common names, with the movements described in terms of
extending or flexing the limb at the joint. Find a machine that will enable
you to do these movements:
Leg press - Extend the legs at the knees.
Arm curl - Flex the arms at the elbows.
Leg extension - Extend the legs at the knees, swinging the feet in an arc
while keeping the upper legs in the same position.
Bench press - Lie on your back and vertically extend your arms at the
Leg curl - Flex the legs at the knees, keeping the upper leg stationary.
Shoulder shrug - Raise the shoulders vertically while holding a weight or
bottom-pulley machine bar in front of you, starting with
the shoulders down and the arms straight down
Cal raise - Lift your heels and rise up on the balls of your feet.
Then slowly let your heel come back down.
Wide-grip pull-downs - Using a wide grip, grasp a top-pulley machine
bar and slowly pull it down to the top of your chest. Then slowly let
the bar return to the starting position.
Spinal hyperextensions - Lie face down on the floor. Place your hands
together at the small of your back. Contract the back muscles and
arch your body by lifting the chest and the feet off the floor. Keep the
Abdominal crunches - Put your hands across your chest, bend your
knees, and flex the abdominal muscles without raising the small of your
back off the floor. Hold at peak contraction for a count of 5 before
lowering your back to the floor. These and many other machine
exercises can be incorporated into an aerobics training program. Just
remember that the goal is not to lift heavy weights, but to reach your
target pulse rate and sustain that pulse rate until you have completed
the circuit of machines. Pace yourself. This can be an extremely
exhausting exercise routine, especially if you are not in good shape
and try to do too much.
EQUIPMENT AND CLOTHING
FOR JOGGING OR RUNNING
Wear light clothing that is suitable to the temperature, and which
gives you a full range of movement. For example, wear shorts and a tank
top indoors or during the summer; wear a jogging suit or sweats during
the winter. Don’t allow yourself to get either too hot or too cold for
comfort. Overheating can bring on heat stroke. Overcooling can result in
pulled muscles and cramps. Be sure to wear good running or jogging
FOR AEROBIC DANCE
Wear a jogging suit or a leotard, and a good pair of gym shoes. Be sure
you have a complete range of motion so you can do all the moves. Don’t
skimp on footwear. Aerobic dance should NOT be done in ballet slippers.
FOR CIRCUIT TRAINING
Most gyms require workout suits that cover the arms and legs. This is to
save the machines’ cushions and pads from deteriorating because of
perspiration. Also, there is nothing more disgusting than having to do an
exercise while sliding on someone else’s sweat. Wear a workout suit that
fits the environment. If your gym is hot, wear something light. If it’s
cold, wear a sweatsuit. Make sure that you have a good pair of gym
shoes. You will be moving rapidly from machine to machine, and you
will need a firm foundation for exercises such as leg presses and
NOTES AND NEWS
Aerobics is primarily a form of exercise: namely, an exercise that
conditions the cardiovascular system by increasing the ability to use
oxygen. But human beings have never been satisfied with merely
exercising. Hence, the invention of aerobic dance: a way to do aerobics
and have fun at the same time. The intensity of this form of exercise
can be increased either by increasing the tempo of the music, or by
increasing the number and difficulty of the dance movements. Aerobic
dance is usually done in large groups, but can be done alone if desired.
Watch out for the group you join: the fitter the group, the more intense
the exercise. If you are a beginner, you may want to start out on your
own and get in shape; or better yet, find a beginners group made up of
other people who are just starting out. Most health club aerobic classes
involve some form of aerobic dancing. it may not be called dancing, but it
involves all the bodily movements of dancing, except that it is faster and
Here’s a typical aerobic dance
1. Put a fairly fast number on your hi-fi, CD player or radio. Turn
the volume up so you can hear the beat.
2. Warm up, then start slowly with dance movements or familiar floor
exercises to the rhythm of the music.
3. Make jumping jacks a dance movement by varying the direction
of the jumps.
4. Make twisting movements an aerobic movement by doing
them to fast music.
Check your pulse, achieve the target rate, and sustain that rate for the
duration of the dance session. If you are interested in learning more
about Aerobics, you might take a look on the internet at these websites:
Here you will not only learn about the latest steps but also see what in going on with
Aerobics is an excellent form of exercise and can be done almost anywhere. Give this
conditioning technique a try if you haven’t already tried it.
WHAT TO DO:
The following questions will help you to have a greater appreciation
and understanding of aerobics. Write your answers in the spaces below
the questions. If there is not enough room, write on the backs of these
sheets. Be neat, spell correctly, and write in complete sentences.
1. What are some of the physical benefits to be derived from aerobics?
2. What type of muscle fibers does aerobic training chiefly work?
3. What does it mean to say that exercise is “specific”?
4. What is a target pulse rate? Explain.
5. Describe how dancing can be done as an aerobic exercise.
6. Explain the difference between extending and flexing your arm at
7. Why is running or jogging a good aerobic exercise? Explain.
8. What is the difference between high-impact and low-impact aerobics?
9. What is circuit training and how can it be aerobic?
10. Explain why a good exercise program should include both aerobic
and resistance training.
Short Answer Questions:
1. The term used for describing the bending of an arm or a leg.
2. They are made of two types of fibers.
3. You can achieve your target pulse rate by varying the number of these.
4. The arm _______ flexes the arms at the elbows.
5. These muscle fibers do not require as much oxygen.
6. He wrote a book on aerobics.
7. This type of training works primarily with the white muscle fibers.
8. The leg ______ extends the legs at the knees.
9. Aerobic exercises help the body’s ability to use this element .
10. The term used to describe the straightening of your arm or leg.
11. This is one popular brand of exercise machine.
12. This was the most popular form of aerobic exercise in the early
years of aerobics.
13. This organ is one part of the cardiovascular system.
14. This exercise conditions the cardiovascular system.
15. Aerobic exercise became part of this movement in the 1970s.
16. This accompanies aerobic dance.
17. A specific exercise produces this type of result.
18. This type of training involves moving from one exercise machine
to another with little rest.
19. If you just train for strength, you will not improve this.
20. These muscle fibers contract more slowly.