Fit After 50: Aerobics–Work Within Your Zone

Note: Please check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program or adopting any of the suggestions included below. And remember, it is always important to warm up before and cool down after aerobic exercise.

You know how there are moments that are burned into the cells of your brain forever? One of mine is when I attended my first ever aerobics class. It was led by a German woman named Helga (I kid you not) and I lasted seven minutes. I literally crawled out of the room on my hands and knees and dry-heaved in the hallway. Can you spell “humiliation”? It was years before I was brave enough to consider aerobics again. So, if you have the same kind of unconscious resistance to aerobics, I totally understand. Unfortunately, after 50, we need to move.

About 10 years ago, I attended an anatomy seminar led by a medical pathologist. When he started discussing the anatomy of the heart, he digressed into a mini-lecture on aerobics. He basically said that because the heart is a muscle, exercise impacts it but not as much as you would think. While the pumping capacity of your heart might improve, the real benefit from aerobic exercise is that it trains the voluntary muscles in your body to use oxygen more efficiently–during exercise and at rest. The result is less overall burden on your cardiovascular system and from his perspective, that was a good thing.

Aerobic activity is *any* sustained movement that causes your body to require more oxygen than normal. Effective aerobic exercise is that which keeps your heart rate at 65% to 80% of its maximum rate for a period of no less than 15 minutes. If you are not very fit, slow walking can be aerobic. If you are very fit, you might have to run or bike to reach your target heart rate. The important thing to remember is stay within your target heart rate.

You determine your target heart rate using the following formula: First subtract your age from 220, then multiple that number by .65.

For example, if you are 50 years old:

220 – 50 = 170. 170 x .65 = 110. Your target heart rate would be 110.

Click here for Heart.com’s information on target heart rates.

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