There are so many benefits to cardiorespiratory fitness, that it's hard to name them all. Just a few awesome benefits of the aerobic program are, increased body-fat utilization, meaning the it helps the body to utilize fat for energy. Aerobic activity also helps reduce the risks of heart disease by favorably modifying risk factors like obesity, hypertension, and elevated triglycerides and LDL-cholesterol (the bad cholesterol). Cardiovascular health goes far beyond merely attaining aerobic fitness. It defines the status of the heart muscle, its blood vessels and the circulatory system it serves. Definitely, it pays to acquire and maintain cardiorespiratory fitness. A few other areas that aerobic endurance activities have been effective in are clinical therapies, such as cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation, sleep disorder treatment, diabetic treatment, prenatal/post-partum and renal dialysis conditioning, and anxiety and depression management programs. In order to put yourself on a good aerobic program, you have to know what the components of an aerobic exercise program are.

Components of an aerobic exercise program

It is imperative for you to understand the physiologic rationale and application of each component of the cardiorespiratory exercise program. The essential components of the written plan are:

Warm-up and cool-down

Primary cardiorespiratory activity criteria:
• Mode of exercise
• Frequency of exercise session
• Duration of exercise session
• Intensity of exercise session
• Supportive conditioning exercise (e.g., strength and flexibility)
• Progression plan
• Safety and cautions.

Warm-up and cool down: Graduated low-level aerobic exercise is essential for maximizing safety during aerobic conditioning. The warm-up should gradually increase the heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen consumption, dilation of the blood vessels, elasticity of the muscles and the heat produced. The warm-up should consist of flexibility exercises (stretching of muscles to be worked) of the calf, quadriceps and Achilles and a graduated aerobic warm-up activity like walking or slow tempo rhythmic calisthenic movements. This warm-up should go for about 5-10 minutes. The cool-down is meant to slowly decrease the heart rate and overall metabolism. Walking, slow jogging, or cycling with little or no resistance, and slow aquatic activity ro swimming are good examples of cool-down activities. For high cardiovascular risk individuals, a gradual decrease in the intensity of exercise is crucial. A sudden stop of exercise without cool-down may adversely affect cardiac function because a relatively high concentration of adrenaline remains in the blood from the conditioning exercise. The cool-down should also be about 5-10 minutes long.

Cardiorespiratory Exercise Criteria. For max effectiveness and safety, the cardiorespiratory exercise program must include specific instructions on the mode, frequency, duration and intensity of exercise. Most of these criteria originate from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) exercise guidelines and position statements. Specific criteria list to follow:

Exercise mode. Selection of the exercise mode is made on the basis of the client's interests, time availability, equipment and facilities, and personal goals. Any activity that uses large muscle groups, is rhythmical and cardiorespiratory in nature, and is maintained continuously can be used. Different modes of aerobic exercises include, but are not limited to:

Aerobics, hiking, jogging and running, Outdoor cycling, Racquetball, handball or squash, Rope skipping, Sprinting, Stationary cycing, Sationary exercise devices, Step exercise, Swimming or tennis.

Exercise frequency. This refers to the number of sessions per week included in the program.

Exercise duration. Duration refers to the number of minutes of exercise during the conditioning period. This may vary from 5-60 minutes.

Intensity of exercise. Intensity refers to the speed or exercise workload. The ACSM recommends a range of 60-90 percent of maximal heart rate. A simple yet effective way to determine your maximal heart rate (H.R.) is by subtracting your age from 220. This will give you a rough estimate of your maximal heart rate. So let's say for example that you have a 40 year old man for whom an intensity of 70 percent of maximal heart rate is desired. You would go as follows:

Training maximal heart rate =
Maximal measured or predicted heart rate
x 60-90 percent (desired percent of maximal heart rate)
220 - 40 (age) = 180 (predicted max heart rate)
x .70 (desired percentage of max H.R.
= 126 (exercise heart rate)

Supportive Conditioning Exercise. All cardiorespiratory exercise programs must be supported by flexibility, strength and even neuromuscular fitness exercise. Although some of this supportive exercise, such as stretching, can be part of the warm-up and/or cool-down, it is prudent to add several separate sessions per week that improve the strength of the back, legs and abdomen.

Progression Plan. A written progression plan with periodic reevaluation is crucial. This plan must provide details for a graduated progression in the frequency, duration and intensity of exercise.

Cautions.The last component of an exercise plan involves using individual information to ensure each individual exercises safety with specific precautions. The following are a few standard cautions for nearly all exercise programs.

• Don't exercise for at least 90 minutes after a meal.
• Avoid continuing exercise with chest discomfort, lightheadedness or dizziness.
• Reduce exercise intensity in response to very hot or humid environments or to altitudes above 5,000 feet.
• Avoid exercise with tenderness in a joint (knee or foot) that tends to worsen with activity.
• Avoid strenuous aerobic exercise during viral infections such as the flu or upper-respiratory tract infection.

Those are the basics for a good cardiorespiratory plan. Join us next issue where we talk about specific types of training methods within the cardiorespiratory program. However, for now, let's get to our exercises! Stay pumped, stay motivated and OO-RAH!

Semper Fidelis!