Last time I discussed the ‘health’ related category of activity; now on the the ‘fitness’ level of activity.   Any activity during which you breathe faster and more fully, is a fitness activity.  The term, “aerobic”,  literally means in the presence of oxygen.  It was coined by Kenneth Cooper, MD who founded the Cooper Institute.    Generally speaking during an aerobic fitness activity you would be able to speak freely and have the ability to breath fully both at the same time.  Aerobic movement is a more demanding form of exercise, one which we associate with a steady state of motion such as continuous running, cycling, swimming, rowing, etc.

According to fitness expert Sally Edwards, MA, MBA who created the Heart Zones Training System and  author of 24 training books*,  we can reference percentages of our maximum heart rate in order to workout in appropriate intensity zones.  Maximum heart rate is defined in The Heart Rate Monitor Guidebook by Sally Edwards as, ” the highest number of beats per minute possible for your heart”.  We are never aiming for this number.  However, using simple sub-max field tests that take 10 minutes to estimate our maximum heart rate you can quickly define your cardiac zones.  The ‘health’ activity level would be working out between 50-70% of maximum heart rate.  The ‘fitness’ level of activity ranges from 60-80% of maximum heart rate.

Zone 1 -Healthy Heart is from 50-60% of maximum heart rate;

Zone 2-Temperate Zone is from 60-70% of maximum heart rate;

Zone 3- Aerobic Zone is from 70-80 % of maximum heart rate;

Zone 4 – Threshold Zone is from 80-90 % of maximum heart rate;

Zone 5 – Red Line Zone is from 90-100% of maximum heart rate.

More is not better here; few people – relatively speaking- will ever train in the Red Zone.  This zone is for those that are competitive athletes or performance fitness enthusiasts who want to improve their time.  I have suggested that a person engaging in exercise for health reasons stay between 50-70% of maximum heart rate or Zones 1 and 2.  Those of us that want to exercise to be fit or improve our aerobic fitness will work out in Zones 2 and 3 and possibly with a wee-bit of Zone 4, the Threshold zone.

The heart rate monitor model that I love is The Blink, the flashing zones. I have programmed this new heart rate monitor to blink in the three zones in which I want to work out.  Those three colors are easy Blue zone, moderate Yellow zone, and the hard Red zone. Training enters here, since if I have a goal, I can follow the three “M”s which are to monitor and measure to better manage my workout intensity. After all, don’t you want to know how much exercise you just did? How many calories you just expended? How much time in the easy Blue, moderate Yellow, and hard Red zones?  Even in this fitness level of activity, knowing your exercise intensity can tell you so much about yourself.  For instance what combination of lifestyle habits contributed to your being able to workout intensely?  Where there any stress factors that influenced your workout intensity today.  Is you fitness level improving so that you can maintain a higher heart rate for a longer period of time?

During the period when  I was first discovering the joys of aerobic exercise, I went to a lecture by Covert Bailey, author of the book, Fit or Fat.   He was lecturing and then providing body fat testing.   We were literally weighed under water to determine the percentage fat and the percentage “lean mass” (think bones and muscles) of our body.  He recommended aerobic exercise as a way of reducing body fat; at this time coupling exercise with leanness was a new concept, popular, and it turns out, not quite accurate.

Weight loss, fat loss is one of the primary benefits of doing aerobic exercise and getting fitter.  What are the other benefits?   The number of mitochondria in our cells is increased.  “Mitochondria are the cell’s power producers. They convert energy into forms that are usable by the cell.” Our fat utilization is improved as is the total number of calories burned.

The scientific reasons for exercise, such as reduced body fat, reduced blood pressure, increase in insulin sensitivity may be reasons enough to work out.  What about the other benefits…reduced stress hormones, reduced stress reactivity, improved emotional well-being, and displacement of unhealthy behaviors?

I invite you to discover what your body and your mind are craving…balance, energy, vitality.  You are the author of your lifestyle writing the script everyday!  By designing your own lifestyle menu to include fitness activity on a regular basis,  you can have an immediate psychological lift, a sense of the present.  This will allow you to have a sense of being in control of your life, a centering in a frazzled world and a deeper sense of the meaning in your life.

In this moment I am fully present, awake and ALIVE!

*I recommend that you read Sally Edwards’ The Heart Rate Monitor Guidebook to HZT, Heart Zones Training (pub 2010) or getting her new DVD, “To the Max” on her website: http://www.HeartZones.com or email Staff@heartzones.com

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