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Phases of Aerobic Exercise

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Cardiovascular exercise strengthens your heart and lungs, lowers your risk of heart disease, strengthens your bones, increases your strength and endurance, and improves your mood and your sleep.

In order to maximize the benefits and minimize injury risk during your workout, include each phase of aerobic activity.

 

Phases of Aerobic Exercise

 

Warmup Phase

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Council on Exercise both recommend five to 10 minutes of low to moderate level activity before jumping into the intense part of your workout. During the warmup, your breathing and heart rate slowly increase, which warms your muscles and prepares them for exercise.

A warmup increases your blood flow and metabolism to deliver oxygen to your muscles more quickly, gradually gets your systems going to help prevent a sudden buildup of lactic acid, prevents injury by increasing your muscle and joint flexibility, and increases the force of muscle contractions during your workout.

 

Training and Conditioning Phase

The training or conditioning phase follows the warmup and is the main part of your workout. This phase of exercise can be summarized by four characteristics: frequency, intensity, time and type. The ACSM recommends a frequency of three to five times per week.

The intensity of your exercise depends on what you’re doing that day and can be measured by your perceived level of effort, which the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans suggest measuring on a scale of zero to 10, with zero being rest and 10 being all-out effort. Time means the duration of your workout, and type refers to the exercise mode: jogging, swimming or cycling, for example.

 

Cool-down Phase

The cool-down phase allows your heart rate and respiration to slowly decrease while your system recovers from the aerobic overload placed on it during the training phase.

The Mayo Clinic recommends continuing your activity at a very reduced pace, which will help to prevent a sudden, intense drop in blood pressure that can lead to light-headedness and fainting.

 

Recovery Phase

Post-workout recovery, including proper rest and replacement of fluids and electrolytes, is vital for continued improvement and to avoid overuse injuries.

Maryann Karinch, author of “Diets Designed for Athletes,” advises that high-glycemic carbohydrates balanced with protein to rebuild muscle tissue play important roles in helping the body to recover after an intense bout of hard cardiovascular activity.

 

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