These aerobic exercise guidelines will help you develop an effective aerobic exercise routine.
Frequency and Duration
The amount of aerobic exercise you should do depends on what your health and fitness goals are.
If your goal is better health and a decent level of cardiovascular fitness, then three 20-30 minute aerobic exercise workouts per week is a good general guideline to follow. If your goal is to lose body fat, especially if you have a lot of body fat to lose, then you'll probably need to do more than three 20-30 minute cardio workouts per week.
The best way to determine what amount of aerobic exercise is best for you is to start an aerobic exercise program and see how your body responds to it and what kind of results you get. You can then decide whether or not the amount of aerobic exercise needs to change.
The talk test is a simple way to measure aerobic exercise intensity. Your workout should be intense enough to make you breathe deeply and feel a little winded, but you should be able to carry on a light conversation while you exercise. If you're breathless and can't get any words out, then you're working too hard and need to reduce the intensity. If you don't feel winded at all, then you're not working hard enough and need to increase the intensity.
Target heart rate is another way to measure intensity. To insure that you're training aerobically, your target heart rate should be between 60% and 85% of your maximum heart rate. Generally, 60-69% is considered low intensity, 70-79% moderate intensity, and 80-85% high intensity.
Maximum heart rate is calculated by subtracting your age from 220. So if you're 40 years old, your maximum heart rate would be 180 (220-40) beats per minute. If you decide to train at a moderate intensity level, say 70% of your maximum heart rate, your target heart rate would be 126 (180 x .70) beats per minute. Wearing a heart rate monitor is the easiest and most accurate way to determine target heart rate.
High Intensity Interval Training
While the preceding information pertaining to frequency, duration and intensity have been commonly accepted aerobic exercise guidelines for quite some time, an increasing number of fitness experts are now recommending high intensity interval training (HIIT) in addition to or instead of traditional aerobic exercise.
Studies have shown that HIIT can be just as effective at improving cardiovascular fitness as traditional aerobic exercise. HIIT is also a very effective way to lose body fat because it burns a lot of calories per minute and it causes a much greater increase in Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) than traditional aerobic exercise. EPOC, commonly known as the afterburn effect, refers to how many additional calories your body will have to burn in order to repair, recover and return back to the way it was before a workout took place.
HIIT consists of alternating high intensity "work intervals" with low to moderate intensity "recovery intervals." For example, you sprint 50 yards and then walk 50 yards, and then continue to alternate these work and recovery intervals. Or you pedal at a fast pace on a stationary bike for 30 seconds and then pedal at a slow or moderate pace for 30 seconds, and then continue to alternate these work and recovery intervals.
There are many different approaches to HIIT, and each involves factors such as the number of intervals per workout, the length of time of the intervals, and whether the intervals are performed on a specific type of equipment or not.
HIIT is very demanding and you need to be in good shape before giving it a try. In general, a HIIT workout should last 10 to 20 minutes and should be performed no more than three times per week.
Changing Workout Routines
This is one of the most disregarded aerobic exercise guidelines. Many people do the same aerobic exercise routine month after month, which can lead to burnout, repetitive injury or aerobic adaptation. Aerobic adaptation is where the body adapts to a particular routine, and it can cause fat loss to come to a stop.
You need to make periodic changes to your aerobic exercise routine, such as alternating between different types of aerobic exercise (e.g., treadmill one workout, elliptical machine another workout) or doing HIIT instead of traditional aerobic exercise.
Warming Up and Cooling Down
It's important to warm up before and to cool down after aerobic exercise. Warming up your muscles prior to your workout will help prevent injury. Cooling down after your workout will slowly lower your heart rate and redirect blood flow back to normal. Both the warm up and cool down should be a few minutes of light aerobic exercise.
Never stretch cold muscles. Stretching cold muscles can cause injury, and several studies have shown that stretching cold muscles slightly decreases muscle strength and power for up to an hour after stretching. Warm up first, then stretch. Or stretch after your workout.
In conclusion, these aerobic exercise guidelines provide a good starting point for developing an effective aerobic exercise routine. For more information on how to use aerobic exercise to lose body fat, check out Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle. It's one of the best fat loss programs available and I highly recommend it.