Let The War On Aerobics BEGIN!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009
As I promised yesterday, I'm waging a war on aerobic exercise.

Let me begin by saying that this is an oddly touchy subject for people.  A lot of people get really offended when I tell them that aerobic exercise doesn't make sense.  It's a tough thing to reject something we've been told for so long.  I'm not suggesting that aerobic exercise is "evil."  I'm simply making the case that there are far better ways of investing your time working out.

I'll also take a quick moment to say this: you have to do what makes you happy.  For instance, if you love going for runs, you'd better do it while you can because tomorrow is never promised.  Don't stop doing something you love because it's not the best kind of exercise.  Just understand that from a purely results-driven perspective, aerobic exercise is absolutely not where you should start for a healthy heart and musculoskeletal system, or for weight loss.

In the coming blog entries (I plan to space these around my Monday, Wednesday and Friday Express Workouts of the Day), I'll discuss why aerobic exercise fails to be an ideal form of exercise, what you should be doing in its place, but also when you should include aerobic exercise as a part of your exercise regimen (it does have its place, but its not first place).

Let's get going by defining what aerobic exercise is, because I feel that is where people begin to get confused when I tell them they don't need it.  We're usually told that aerobic exercise is great for your heart and your lungs.  But an activity being "aerobic" has little to do with your heart and lungs.  It's about how energy is being used for work at a cellular level.  When you do aerobic exercise, or exercise that involves long-duration endurance, oxygen is required for your body's chemical reaction to produce energy from sugar, while in anaerobic exercise it isn't needed.  But it doesn't have anything to do with being "better" for your heart and lungs.

"Anaerobic" exercise can be fantastic for your heart.  Your heart is a muscle like any other muscle, and it adapts to what is demanded of it.  If you demand "aerobic" endurance, it will become more efficient working at about 70% or so of its maximum capacity.  But you can also demand that your heart work at 100% of its capacity.  If you do this, your heart will adapt by becoming stronger and increasing its overall capacity for work at any level.  Ask any sprinter who just finished a race if his/her heart and lungs got a workout, and through all the panting, the answer will most assuredly be "yes."  

Having a healthy heart is not about how long you can run without getting tired.  Endurance is one of those funny traits we look for from exercise even though it has no real world value other than helping us exercise for longer.  Though it's worth noting that you can increase your endurance without training for it.  By working your heart at full capacity, you increase its ability to work at everything less without specifically training for it.  To use a weightlifting example, if you've worked to increase your bench press max from 150 to 200 pounds, you'll find that you can lift 100 pounds for more repetitions than you could before, even though you weren't training for that.

That's my battle for the day, but the war will continue later...

Keep checking back for more.  And remember, "aerobic" shouldn't come with a positive connotation - it's just a word to describe a chemical reaction.

I love you and there's not a damn thing you can do about it!


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