For Immediate Release March 05, 2020

By Dr. Asghar Fakhri
Capital Gazette
Feb 8, 2020 | 6:00 am

Have you been told that you need to do aerobic exercise? What does that mean? How do you know if you are doing enough?

Aerobic exercise makes your heart and lungs stronger. It can also help you lose weight and reduce your stress. Aerobic exercise involves moving large skeletal muscles. As a result, you breathe quicker and your heartbeat speeds up, thus strengthening the heart and lungs.

In order to contract the muscles for movement, the body uses glucose, which is the sugar the body has stored away from the foods we eat in the form of glycogen and oxygen to the muscles. The heart rate increases and moves the blood and oxygen faster around the body. As a result, exercise helps the heart become more efficient and stimulates the growth of new blood vessels, therefore decreasing blood pressure. The increased blood flow also positively affects the brain. The brain cells start working at a higher level making you feel more alert and awake during exercise and more focused when you finish.

There are many forms of aerobic exercise for you to choose from, including walking, jogging or running; hiking; climbing stairs; cycling; swimming; dancing; jumping rope or jumping jacks. Pick exercises that you enjoy, and don't be afraid to try new ones!

Experts recommend adults do 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, which is 30 minutes 5 days a week at medium-intensity. You could also choose to do 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise, which could be as little as 15 minutes a day 5 days a week at a high intensity. Children ages 6-17 years old should get at least 60 minutes of moderate- to high-intensity exercise every day. Pregnant women should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week.

One way is to check your heart rate using a formula to find the ideal training rates. An easier way is to just monitor how you feel. Check-in with yourself while you are working out.

If you want to exercise moderately, you should feel like this: not out of breath, but breathing quickly; lightly sweating at around 10 minutes of exercise; you can talk, but cannot sing.

If your goal is to exercise vigorously or at a high-intensity, your breathing should be deep and rapid, you are sweaty after just a few minutes, and you cannot say more than a few words without pausing for breath.

You may be exercising too hard if you are short of breath, are in pain, or can't work out as long as you planned to. If this is the case, slow down, back off a little bit until you feel the vigorous or moderate signals. If you are not feeling any exertion, pick up the pace a bit. You will get the most from your workouts if you are exercising at the right pace.

Research has shown that interval training is well tolerated by most people. In interval training, short bursts (15 to 60 seconds) of higher intensity exercise is alternated between longer, less intense exercise during your workout. Studies have shown interval training is very effective at improving cardiovascular fitness and promotes weight loss. Additionally, interval training is usually safe for people with heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Always check with your doctor before you start a new exercise program. The experts at the University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Heart Associates would be happy to talk to you about a safe exercise plan to strengthen your heart.

Dr. Asghar Fakhri is a cardiologist with the University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Heart Associates. To reach Dr. Fakhri, please call 410-768-0919.