Bringing Wellness Full Circle

So, are you supposed to work aerobically or anaerobically? And how do you fit metabolic training in there? Which one is best? And what the heck does it mean? Why does it matter?

Simply put, aerobic means “with oxygen” and refers to how the body uses oxygen during activity; anaerobic means “without oxygen.” Metabolic training involves conditioning exercises designed to increase the efficiency and capacity of the body’s energy pathways to store and deliver energy for activity, and can involve both aerobic and anaerobic activity.

So far so good? OK. The more we increase our exercise intensity over a shorter period of time, the greater the need for anaerobic energy production. Lower intensity exercise, performed over a longer period of time, maintains aerobic metabolic conditions. So, it really is best to think of aerobic and anaerobic as transitions in metabolism, whereby the stage of exercise intensity we are in determines our metabolic reaction.

So, what does any of this have to do with you?  You and I are just average people who exercise to gain the health benefits, feel good and to lose weight, right? Well with that in mind, aerobic exercise allows you to exercise at a fairly low intensity for long period of times; it’s usually less stressful to the muscles, joints and your heart, which may be appropriate for individuals with high blood pressure, arthritis, or heart disease. Examples of aerobic exercise include walking, jogging, outdoor cycling, walking or jogging on a treadmill, rowing, swimming, and using the elliptical machine or stair climber. However, to improve more rapidly your exercise capability, results, tolerance, and performance, some anaerobic exercise also is necessary.

When starting a training program, it’s always good and sage to start with lower intensity exercises, although anaerobic exercise is unavoidable for some kinds of exercises or activities. Lifting weights is anaerobic, for example, which is why muscles fatigue occurs so rapidly during weight training. Other activities such as walking up stairs can be anaerobic if you’re unfit. A combination of anaerobic and aerobic exercise is needed to achieve lasting, full-body results.

For aerobic exercise, the recommended heart rate is 60-85 percent of your maximum heart rate. This is your target heart rate. You should maintain this heart rate for about 30-40 minutes at least three times a week, working your way up to 5-6 days a week if possible.  Anything above 85 percent maximum heart rate constitutes anaerobic exercise. Anaerobic exercises usually involve short bursts of activity; weight training or sprints are good examples. You should also incorporate anaerobic training into your workouts.

But there are a bunch of exercises that blur the line between aerobic and anaerobic. They involve short bursts of activity (anaerobic) but also sustained activity over a longer period of time (aerobic) compared to single-set, single-movement exercises, meaning you’ll get a well-rounded workout to burn fat, build strength, tone your entire body and increase cardiovascular health, all at the same time. We do a lot of those in Barb’s Fit U classes:

Target Heart Rate for Aerobic Exercise























Above age 69


Timed Sets: Instead of performing a certain number of sets and reps, you complete as many repetitions of a particular activity as possible during a set time. For example: Jumping jacks for 1 minute; pushups for 45 seconds and squats for 1:30 minutes. Record your totals. Challenge yourself to increase the amount of reps and shorten or lengthen the time as you improve.

Density Training: Perform as many sets of 2-3 exercises as possible with in a time frame. For example: 10 pushups, 10 squats, 10 biceps curls, performed continuously for three minutes. You can adjust the length of time according to your fitness level, and choose any number/variety of continuous exercises for any number of reps.

Complexes: This is essentially a form of circuit training or super-setting using only one piece of equipment, one space and one load. For example: 15 stability ball squats, 15 stability ball crunches, 15 stability ball hamstring curls, 20 rubber-band biceps curls, 20 rubber-band shoulder presses, 20 rubber-band rows, done consecutively.

No matter which exercises you choose, the key is to add high-intensity, short-duration metabolic training to your workout, vary the intensities by changing methods of training, and every so often switch from high intensity, short duration to medium intensity, medium duration and low intensity, long duration. It’s a great way to burn fat and build muscle, and it makes the journey we call fitness that much more challenging and rewarding.

I hope I did not completely confuse you…


Comments on: "Fat-Burning Muscle-Building Zone" (4)

  1. Avery well written article with lots of useful information, thank you very much. I recently wrote an article on Exercise and its positive affects on Aging. Think this sort of information is so important particularly given the fact that the Boomer generation is set to be around for a long time, lets make sure its a thriving one.

    Thank you Diana

  2. […] Fat-Burning Muscle-Building Zone ( […]

  3. […] Fat-Burning Muscle-Building Zone ( […]

  4. Wow that was strange. I just wrote an extremely long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that
    over again. Regardless, just wanted to say fantastic blog!

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