Aerobic Fitness

Aerobic Fitness

What is aerobic fitness?

Aerobic fitness, also known as cardiorespiratory endurance, cardiorespiratory fitness, cardiovascular fitness, or aerobic capacity, is a physical trait that reflects the capacity of the body’s circulatory and respiratory systems to supply oxygen to muscles for energy production during physical activity. Aerobic fitness is the result of aerobic exercise.

Did you know that aerobic fitness in youth is an important marker of health? Did you know that poor aerobic fitness is a strong and consistent predictor of disease and death among adults? Low or unhealthy aerobic fitness is a strong, independent predictor of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and all-cause mortality (death) in adults. In youth, aerobic fitness is a predictor of several indicators such as cardiometabolic health, cardiovascular health, academic achievement, and mental health. Public health measures and school policies that provide space and time for aerobic exercise for individuals and populations will result in substantial health benefits.

What exactly does aerobic exercise do?

Aerobic exercise, sometimes referred to as “cardio” is a form of work-out that raises the heart rate and breathing rate. This form of exercise improves the health and function of your heart, lungs, and circulatory system. In the long term, aerobic exercise also leads to increased stamina and reduced fatigue. Aerobic exercise activates your immune system in a good way, making you less susceptible to viral illnesses, such as colds and flu. Aerobic exercise may ease the gloominess of depression, reduce the tension associated with anxiety, promote relaxation and improve your sleep. It can improve your mental well-being and your self-esteem.

How do I assess my current aerobic fitness?

An accurate assessment of aerobic fitness can be done by measuring VO2 max (the maximal amount of oxygen your heart and lungs can deliver per unit time). The VO2 max test calculates the oxygen consumption of your body during high-intensity activities. You pedal a stationary bike with gradually increasing difficulty until you can’t keep up while wearing a mask that measures oxygen in and carbon dioxide out.

You can also try this simple assessment: see if you can walk up five flights of stairs at your own pace without stopping, using the railing only for balance. If you can, you are aerobically fit, but you could build further fitness with aerobic exercise.

You can also try the step method of assessing aerobic fitness which is described here.

How do I maintain my aerobic fitness (If good?)

You can maintain a good aerobic fitness by getting regular physical activity, especially aerobic exercise. The American College for Sports Medicine recommends regular moderate to high-intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes 3 times per week. Walking, jogging, cycling, aerobic dance, and stair climbing are examples of aerobic exercises. Activities combining upper and lower body movements such as rowing and swimming can lead to even higher levels of aerobic capacity. For maximum effectiveness, aerobic exercise needs to be rhythmic, continuous and involve the large muscle groups primarily located in the lower part of your body.

How can I improve /build-up my aerobic fitness?

Aerobic fitness amongst youth and young adults can be improved with repeated bursts of vigorous physical activity, such as High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) which is a type of training that alternates short periods of intense or explosive exercise with brief recovery periods until the point of exhaustion e.g. performing jumping jacks (which we sometimes call “apart-together”) for 30 seconds punctuated with a 10-20 second rest – followed by another cycle of similar intense exercises. Amongst older adults, activities like walking, jogging, running, cycling, swimming, aerobics, rowing, stair climbing, hiking, and many types of dancing are “pure” aerobic activities. Sports such as soccer, basketball, squash and tennis will also improve one’s cardiovascular fitness.

Precautions and best practices

Mr. Douglas Bamweyana is an Assistant Lecturer, Sports Science, Department of Biochemistry and Sports Science. He has a BSc. Sports Science (Mak), MSc. Sports Biomechanics (Loughborough University - UK), an MBA (Univ. of Nicosia) and is currently a PhD Student. His research interests include optimizing human performance, human movement variability and engineering and computer simulation modelling. He is a CAF A Licensed Coach and FUFA 1st Division Licensed Coach. He is President - Uganda Society of Sports Science and Physical Education (USSSPE).

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