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It is a proven fact: exercise is one of the most vital activities that we can do in order to stay healthy, live longer and improve our quality of life. There are two kinds of exercise: aerobic exercise and strength training. Strength training targets big muscle groups and usually does not make our hearts and lungs work harder. This type of exercise strengthens our muscles, improves our stamina, improves our coordination and improves our balance, thereby lessening risk of injury when we perform aerobic exercises. Aerobic exercises are activities that require much movement, making our lungs and heart beat faster, our blood circulate more, and this type of exercise makes us sweat.
Aerobic exercise can be as simple as walking or as complex as gymnastics. But whether simple or complex, there is a right way to do each aerobic exercise set in order to ensure that we will benefit the most from it and that we can avoid injuring ourselves. Here are three common terms that you are probably familiar with related to aerobic exercise: warming up, stretching and cooling down. These three actually have not been proven to actually offer the benefits that it purportedly brings, but it doesn’t take much effort and there is no risk on doing them during an aerobic workout, so it is best to go through the routines as well.

Warm-ups are sets of movements that an individual can do to raise the body’s temperature and increase blood circulation to the muscles in preparation for the aerobic workout. This could be brisk walking, jumping jacks or if you’re swimming, slow-paced laps.

Stretching is another component that is done prior to the exercise. This involves stretching muscles and tendons in order to prep them for the rigors of exercising, enabling joints to achieve their full range of motion and allowing muscles to be more flexible. Stretching apparently lessens risk of injury, but doctors warn against stretching for sports that require intense bursts of energy such as sprints of track and field sports. When stretching, you should take care not to bounce to avoid risk of tearing muscles.   You also should not aim for feeling pain, but instead just stretch to the point of resistance.

Cooling down on the other hand, is about 5-10 minutes of gradually slowing activity following your aerobic exercise. From a run, this could mean a slow jog to be followed by a brisk walk to a normal paced walk. This allows the body to slowly lower its temperature and for muscles to relax. Doing cooling down exercises is supposed to reduce muscle injury, stiffness of the joints and soreness.

While the benefits of these three aerobic workout accompaniments are still debated, it is nevertheless a good practice since it also serves as a ritual that condition you psychologically for the workout. After performing it regularly, you will find that these exercises will become part of an enjoyable routine.

Here are some other tips on the right way to do aerobic exercise:

  • Stay hydrated. Aerobic exercise will leave us sweating and breathing heavily. We must take care to keep hydrated by drinking water before the exercise and keeping water handy while exercising. You can also drink sports drinks, or others prefer to dilute sports drinks in regular water.
  • Wear the right gear. When running, make sure that your shoes are good enough in absorbing the shock from your run. This will avoid injury to your knees and ankles, and also ensures that you have a comfortable run. In any other sport, make sure that you have the corresponding recommended gear.
  • Stay within your range of capability. Do not push your body past what it can realistically do—athletes train for a long time before achieving a hard feat, and so should you. If you’re a beginning runner, start with running just a few kilometers everyday at a moderated pace. Eventually you can pick up when you have built up your endurance.
  • Consult with your doctor. Before embarking on a fitness regimen, ask your doctor if it is safe for you, especially if you have chronic conditions such as obesity, heart conditions and type 2 diabetes.