The Importance of Aerobic Training

The Importance of Aerobic Training.

The Importance of Aerobic Training. Aerobic training. Simply put, the word aerobics means “with oxygen” While this definition may sound quite vague, once you have a better understanding of what aerobics actually is, it will make more sense.

Achieving an “aerobic effect” can be defined as participating in a physical activity that elevates your heart rate to your target heart rate and maintains that level for a minimum of 20 consecutive minutes.

For example, an individual that performs a running routine that elevates their heart rate to their target heart rate for 20, or more, consecutive minutes will achieve an aerobic effect.

So Many Benefits

Increases cardio respiratory and cardiovascular system outputs • Strengthens heart • Decreases resting heart rate • Improves circulation by clearing out cholesterol buildup • Body adapts to burn fat as primary fuel source • Improves psychological disposition and reduces stress levels • Raises basal metabolic rate • Decreases blood pressure • Reduces LDL blood cholesterol level • Tones muscles • Improved balance and posture  • Increases Blood Oxygen level • Increases flexibility, reducing capability for injury.

Aerobic Training Exercise

The mechanics of aerobic training exercise require that oxygen be brought in by the lungs and transferred to the blood vessels.  Oxygen rich blood is then pumped by the heart to the muscles.  The muscles utilize oxygen for muscle contraction.  Through routine aerobic activity, the body becomes more efficient at processing oxygen.  Examples of aerobic activity include running, jogging, biking, rowing, walking.  In fact, any exercise that incorporates large muscle groups, raises the heart rate, breathing rate and body temperature is aerobic in nature. 

Weekly Requirements and Limitations

Fitness Level gains are determined by Frequency, Intensity and Duration of the Aerobic exercise. Each session (duration) should last from 20 to 60 minutes and be performed 3 to 5 days per week (frequency) at an intensity level measured by heart rate (60% – 90%) according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).  

During the first 15 minutes of aerobic activity, glycogen or sugar within the muscles is used for energy.  Fat metabolism for energy doesn’t occur until about 15 to 20 minutes after beginning aerobic activity.  This is why it’s important that aerobic duration be at least 30 minutes.  Aerobic sessions greater than 1 hour continue to burn fat but at not the same rate as during the first hour.  

Additionally, sessions greater than 1 hour increase the risk of injury due to fatigue.  Increasing aerobic frequency (greater than 5 times per week) does not give the body a chance to fully recover and can even reduce the body’s capability to defend itself against illness.  It is important to listen to what your body is trying to tell you.  Rest, adequate sleep, and proper diet all become more critical when demands are placed on our bodies above the normal everyday physical stress.

Diet Requirements

The type of fuel you put in a vehicle depends on the performance you expect out of it.  The same is true of our body.  Unlike weight training, aerobic training has two main goals.  The first is to improve cardiovascular performance, the second to burn fat.  Both of these goals can be realized during the same aerobic session.  

If the goal is to simply improve cardiovascular strength, then we need to target performance.  Like weight training, we want to consume a complex carbohydrate snack before aerobics.  A sugar snack will not provide the sustained energy and in fact may decrease performance. Excessive sugar intake before aerobic activity can work against the participant.  When large amounts of sugar are ingested, the pancreas must secrete insulin to metabolize the sugar.  Insulin levels in the blood inhibit the liver from metabolizing fat. Therefore, little or no fat burning takes place during exercise. This includes sugary drinks, i.e., sport drinks which, stay in the stomach much longer than ordinary cold water thereby inhibiting quick hydration.  Therefore, if the goal is to burn fat, then water only should be consumed before aerobics. 

In addition to their doctor’s recommendations – Eat a small, easily digestible snack (such as crackers) prior to exercise. • Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise to prevent dehydration. • Older populations lose their sensitivity to thirst and subsequently dehydrate easier. • Wear loose, comfortable clothes to avoid movement restrictions.

Types of Aerobic Activities

Anything that maintains the target heart rate 60% – 90% of the Maximum Heart Rate is considered aerobic.  If the heart rate is lower, then aerobic levels have not been reached.  If the heart rate is higher, then an anaerobic level has been reached.  During anaerobic exercise (sprinting) protein is being consumed and energy is being produced without the benefit of oxygen.

High intensity, high impact aerobics is not necessary to burn fat.  For example, running for 1-mile burns only 20% more fat than brisk walking for 1 mile.  It’s important to focus on the exercise and maintain the target heart rate.  Watching TV, reading books or other similar activity tends to distract the participant from monitoring the target heart rate.  Use music with sufficient beats per minute to intensify the exercise session (120 – 140 bpm). 

It is important to provide a period for cool-down. Abruptly stopping aerobic activity can cause blood pooling in your lower extremities or making you feel lightheaded.

Class Preparation for Trainers

Step height should be dependent on participant’s height and fitness level and familiarity with Step Aerobics.  Even athletes should limit the step height to the lowest possible height until the coordination is achieved on the step. Under no circumstances should the step height be high enough to require a 90 degree or greater flexion of the knee.  A maximum of 60 degrees is sufficient for all higher intensity levels.

Always ask if anyone is new to step. Keep a watchful eye on new people to insure their adherence to safety standards. They may not be aware of their limits yet. We all have a tendency to get complacent over time so always instruct participants in the proper technique, regardless if there are new people present or not. 

Instructors should be conscious of the fact that the class will try to follow your intensity level.  Therefore, if you use more than one-step riser, the class will follow even if they are not ready, it’s not really necessary to use more than one riser.  The additional stress on your shins, knees and ankles may manifest itself in time. Sometimes, you don’t get the chance to follow ACSM guidelines for alternate days of aerobic activity to heal properly.  Proper technique, enough sleep and proper diet are of utmost importance.

Before starting class make sure that all towels, weights or other items are stowed under the board or at the wall so as not to provide a hazard during class.  Ensure that each step participant has a minimum of 25 square feet of space.  In other words, a 5-foot by 5-foot area with the step positioned in the middle of this area.  

Begin with a progressive, limbering warm-up and stretch period followed by stepping with a tap up then basic step up moves. Progressively add arm and then leg changes. Observe the class’s response to cueing. This will give you an idea of the overall class experience level. Adjust the class accordingly. 

Face the class providing a mirror image of the moves.  During such maneuvers as turn step or over the top (not across the top), it may be less confusing to the class and therefore easier for them to follow if you face front. Remain flexible in your teaching style and use common sense guided by the participant’s perspective.

Intensity and Complexity

There is a misconception of what constitutes beginner, intermediate and advanced levels of aerobics.  Generally, people equate class level with choreographic complexity. It is physical exercise intensity level alone that determines class level and subsequently heart rate.  Complex moves, although fine for dance enthusiasts, can be defeating and demoralizing to most of the people who are trying to learn complex dance moves when they are really there to burn fat. 

Intensity can be better served by utilizing large muscle groups quantitatively.  Complex dance moves can be icing on the cake after the intensity level has been achieved by the aforementioned method. In many cases this may serve as a great cool-down method since intensity and subsequently heart rate generally drops as the participant slows down to learn new steps.  Therefore, beginner, intermediate and advanced level classes can be grouped further into two categories, complex and non-complex denoting the choreographic complexity.  

Leg muscles and arm movements will also add to intensity level.  Intensity level can be reduced by placing hands on the waist while continuing to step, by reducing the height of the step or by reducing the tempo of the music. Step heights of 4 inches provide intensity levels near those of walking briskly.  A step height of 12 inches exhibits near the same energy level as jogging at 5 to 7 mph.

Components of an Aerobic Class  

Aerobic classes are generally one hour in length.  The warm-up segment should last about 10 minutes and be composed of limbering type exercises to provide a core body temperature increase. Warming up the muscles is of prime importance in preventing injury due to the fact that they are more elastic. Lower body stretching should then be done for about 5 more minutes. 

Begin stepping using simple moves. The aerobic segment should last about 25 minutes and should increase gradually in intensity and complexity.  All moves should be less than full range until full warm-up is achieved.  Heart rate can be checked about halfway through the aerobic segment and is a good time for a water break.  The class should be adjusted according to the results of the heart rate check.  A cooldown segment follows the aerobic segment lasting about 5 minutes.  

Heart rate should then be checked again to assure a rate of less than 120 bpm.  Anyone still at a higher level should be instructed to continue marching or walking around the room.  Floor work should then begin and continue for the next 10 minutes followed by stretching for the last 5 minutes.  None of these times are cast in stone and may be adjusted accordingly.  For example, the instructor can reduce the aerobic segment to 20 minutes and increase the final stretching segment to 10 minutes.


Everyone should be able to find at least one aerobic training exercise that they like and feel comfortable with, or they can mix up different types. Aerobic training is crucial to optimal heart health. Doing it right and sticking to it will keep your heart healthy.

Remember, just because you can’t see your heart, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need training. Aerobic training is a must! never mind about focusing on biceps and pecs, if your heart stops pumping, you stop pumping! Hopefully, after reading this you realize the importance of aerobic training in your program.

Author: Nigel Taylor

I`m Nigel Taylor – originally from England – owner of The Backyard Gym in Round Rock Texas. We specialize in personal training, kickboxing cardio and self-defense. With over 25 years experience as a personal trainer, I know what works! From weight loss to bulking up to toning up, I can help you get your desired look and achieve your fitness goals. I can also offer you the privacy of a 100% private personal training studio in which to enjoy and get the most out of your workouts.