Thursday, November 10, 2005


After you have defined your objective, you need to develop an exercise program to get you there. As with diet, the best exercise program is the one you are going to enjoy and stick with. There are usually a couple of options for getting the results you are looking for.

Most exercise programs are going to consist of an aerobic workout and a resistance workout:

Resistance training is designed to improve either muscle strength or size. The muscle cells are purposely damaged through a process of overloading, the body reacts instinctively to repair the damaged cells so they can cope with any future overload, increasing their size and strength in the process.

The muscles themselves do not actually increase in number, as some might think: the human body has a genetically defined number of muscle cells.

Typical types of resistance training include lifting weights, performing isometric exercises or using body weight (e.g., push-ups or pull-ups) as the resistance

Aerobic training relates to the processes by which the body generates the energy to perform work. The principal fuels used to produce energy are the body's stores of fat, carbohydrate or protein. These fuels can be converted into energy by one of two processes, the aerobic metabolic process or the anaerobic metabolic process.
The aerobic process consumes fuel in the presence of oxygen (supplied by the flow of blood) producing by-products, carbon dioxide and water, which are expelled by respiration and perspiration. The aerobic process provides the majority of the energy used by the slow acting muscle fibers (crucial to endurance activities).

The Anaerobic process occurs when there is not enough oxygen in the blood to produce energy aerobically. This process consumes carbohydrate as its primary source of fuel and does so in the absence of oxygen, producing a by-product called lactate. It is lactate which produces the muscle soreness and fatigue associated with excessive exercise. The anaerobic process provides the majority of the energy used by the fast-acting muscle fibers (crucial to strength and power activities).

When we start exercising, energy is initially produced anaerobically until the respiratory and cardiovascular systems respond and supply the oxygen necessary for aerobic energy production, hence the increase in breathing and heart rates. Once oxygen supply is sufficient, most of the energy will be produced aerobically, with the balance supplemented anaerobically. The lactate formed by this residual anaerobic production is easily dissipated by the body's organs, avoiding any onset of fatigue.

As exercise intensity increases the muscles' ability to produce energy aerobically will reach a limit (defined by the capacity of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems to supply additional oxygen). At this point the body cannot supply additional oxygen, and energy production becomes anaerobic. This transition point is the maximal aerobic output and is called the aerobic threshold. Exercise above this level causes a rapid build-up of lactate, leading to muscle fatigue which will cause cessation of exercise.

Knowledge of the aerobic/anaerobic process is essential to the successful attainment of specific exercise aims. Fat burn (weight maintenance), cardio-vascular training (cardio-vascular or endurance fitness) and anaerobic training (tolerance to fatigue) all rely on an understanding of the way our body produces energy.

As discussed in the section on Heart Rate Monitors, heart rate is a great tool for understanding which process is operating (aerobic or anerobic) and for making sure you do not over train.

Some types of aerobic training include biking, walking, running, aerobic classes, eliptical machines (my favorite because they are low/no impact) and stair climbers.


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