Before deciding on any fitness program, it is critically important to settle on what you want to accomplish. It sounds silly, but expressing your fitness goals and keeping them clearly in mind makes you more likely to achieve what you set out to do. If you don’t know what you want, how will you know when you get there?
Once you’ve decided what you’re working toward, the time has come to set up your workout routine. Different exercises provide different outcomes when you’re doing them. Exercises are broken into two basic categories: fat-burning or muscle-building. Aerobic exercise, generally speaking, is used at moderate intensity by most people for fat-burning. Anaerobic exercise is generally for muscle-building.
That being said, considerable crossover does occur between the two categories. The more intensely a person performs a movement, the more muscle-building, or anaerobic, an exercise becomes.
The word, in biology, literally means “requiring oxygen to live.” Aerobic exercise is an activity that is:
- Vigorous or moderate, depending on your goal
- Raises the heart rate – how high depends on your goal
- Takes time – how much depends on your goal
- Is repetitive
- Raises your fat-burning metabolism when done at a moderate rate
- Improves the body’s ability to use oxygen
- Increases the amount of blood your heart can pump with each beat – also called “stroke volume”
- Reduces tension, anxiety, and stress, which improves mental health
Examples of aerobic movements are walking briskly enough to raise your heart rate moderately, cross-country skiing, jogging, swimming, bicycle riding, stair-stepping, and elliptical training (fairly new in fitness facilities).
Overall, aerobic movement makes hearts more efficient by lowering the number of times per minute your heart beats when it’s at rest. It improves body composition – the ration of fat mass to lean body mass. Fitness professionals consider aerobic exercise to be the classic weight-loss type of exercise.
Simply put, a resistance exercise is performed against a force that makes the movement more difficult to do. Most of us think of weight-lifting, be it free-weights in the garage or the latest machines in a fitness club, as the classic resistance exercises. Weight training is designed to build strength and muscle size. Anything that makes an exercise harder to do, though, is a resistance exercise. When we look at it like that, water, exercise bands, and gravity join the resistance category.
Resistance training can contribute quite a bit to a fat-loss goal for several reasons:
- Increases muscle size (for women, not a lot) to burn more fat at rest
- Makes the muscle leaner, so it’s made up of less fat and is more efficient
- Helps keep our bones stronger as muscles pull on them and provide beneficial challenges to them
A combination of weight training and aerobic exercises get most of us to the fitness goals we set ourselves.