Aerobic Exercise Guidelines

The FITT Principle guidelines discussed in Chapter 4 and outlined in the Physical Activity Pyramid for cardiorespiratory training are:



♦ Intensity - 60% to 90% of maximum heart rate (Max HR).

♦ Time - 30-60 minutes per day within your target heart rate zone.

♦ Type - continuous, low resistance, high repetition activities. The guidelines for exercise "intensity" and "type" are discussed next.

Intensity of Exercise

Intensity can be estimated using the following measures:

Target Heart Rate Zone

Measuring increases in heart rate during a workout is a quick and easy method to gauge the intensity of your workout. To measure your heart rate follow the instructions in Figure 5-1.

Figure 5-1. Measuring Heart Rate at the Wrist

♦ Use your fingertips, not your thumb, to find your pulse at your wrist below your thumb.

♦ Count the beats for 10 seconds.

♦ Multiply this number by 6 to get your heart rate in beats per minute (bpm).

Once you measure your exercising heart rate how do you know whether you are exercising at the appropriate intensity? Depending on your age and fitness level there is a target heart rate zone that is appropriate for your exercise intensity. Use Figure 5-2 or Worksheet 5-1 to find your target heart rate zone.

See "Training Design and Progression" on page 33 to determine what heart rates, within this range, you should aim for during exercise based on your level of physical fitness and your fitness goals.

Figure 5-2. Target Heart Rate Zones















Target Heart Rate Zone

Target Heart Rate Zone

Age (years)

Note: Max HR is lower during swimming and arm exercises. For these activities, subtract 13 from Max HR before calculating your target training zone.

90% max HR

60% max HR

Age (years)

Note: Max HR is lower during swimming and arm exercises. For these activities, subtract 13 from Max HR before calculating your target training zone.

Worksheet 5-1. Determine Your Target Heart Rate

Target HR Zone =_to_bpm.


Most exercise machines display "Calories" during an exercise session and the term is very familiar to most people. Calories per hour is the amount of energy you use when maintaining the same exercise intensity for an hour.

Perceived Exertion

Ratings of Perceived Exertion, or RPE, are the subjective measures of exercise intensity perceived by the exerciser. Measurements are based on a twenty-point scale, "6" is no exertion and "20" is maximal exertion. Most people should workout at a perceived exertion of 12 to 15 (moderate to hard).

Other Measures of Exercise Intensity

METs and Watts are two other measures of exercise intensity that are often calculated on exercise machines. A MET (metabolic equivalent) describes the amount of energy needed to perform an activity. Rest requires 1 MET, so exercising at 5 METs requires 5 times the energy needed at rest. A Watt is the amount of work (kcal) performed in a given time period. Therefore, the greater the watts (kcal/min), the higher the exercise intensity.

Type of Exercise

Continuous, low-resistance exercises (e.g., biking) train the heart and muscles to use oxygen more efficiently. To choose the best exercises for you to perform, consider the following:

♦ Training is exercise specific; e.g., run to improve your run time.

♦ Exercises that involve several muscle groups and are weight bearing will require the greatest amount of Calories to perform.

♦ Exercises that you enjoy the most are the best exercises for you.

♦ Alleviate boredom and decrease your risk for injuries by alternating the types of exercise you perform, i.e., cross-train.

Table 5-1. Examples of Aerobic Exercise




Aerobic Classes

Group setting, variety of levels

Work at your own pace; ask instructor prior to class for any tips.


Low impact, good for cross-training

Bike at 70 rpms, with a slight bend in knee to best work the quadriceps muscles.

Climbing (Stairclimbing)

Weight bearing

Uses major muscles of lower body; weight-bearing (by not leaning arms on machine); Rock climbing strengthens upper body, too.

Cross-country Skiing

Low impact, good for cross-training

Uses most major muscle groups.

Jumping Rope

Can be performed in small quarters

A fast pace mimics running; wear good shoes and avoid cement surface.

Martial Arts

Group setting

Popular; many classes focus on flexibility, strength, and relaxation.


Low impact

Works most major muscle groups.


Minimal gear required

High impact, alternate with other exercises.

Swimming, water aerobics

No impact, can be a group setting

Uses most major muscle groups; great as a primary, cross-training, or rehab. exercise.


Low impact, minimal gear

Uses most major lower body muscle groups; weight-bearing.

There are several variations to these basic types of exercises, such as kickboxing, treading, and spinning.

There are several variations to these basic types of exercises, such as kickboxing, treading, and spinning.


For overall health and general fitness benefits, and to avoid overuse injuries, alternate the types of exercises you perform, i.e., cross-train. Cross-

training allows you to build a good aerobic base while avoiding overuse injuries caused by the repetitive motions of a single exercise. Engaging in a variety of activities (e.g., alternating between running and swimming) uses different muscle groups.

For performance-related fitness, strategies to enhance your speed for activities that require fast, short-duration sprints (like soccer) are presented in Table 5-2.

Table 5-2. Various Training Strategies for Speed

Workout Description

Intervals Ratios of recovery to work; i.e., 3 minutes normal (recovery)

pace, 1 minute sprint (work) pace (3:1); 30 second recovery to 15 second work (2:1), etc.

Fartleks Mix normal exercise pace with hard exercise pace in an

(Speed Play) unstructured pattern.

Time Trial Exercise for predetermined distance at a race pace.

Pyramids Exercise is divided in stages as follows: 1 minute (min) hard: 1

min rest, 3 min hard: 2 min rest, 5 min hard: 3 min rest, 7 min hard: 5 min rest, then work back down (5:3, 3:2, 1:1).

Sprint Maximum exercise effort lasting 5-10 seconds, followed by complete recovery.

Acceleration Sprint Jog 100 yards (yds.), then sprint 100 yds., then walk 100 yds.;

repeat this pattern for a given distance or time.

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