Fitness

How to improve your aerobic fitness

Many dread cardio sessions but they're important for a healthy heart and lungs.

By Bronte Chaperon
Aerobic exercise - also known as cardio - is a polarising topic. Some love working up a sweat and others said goodbye to cardio sessions when their school's beep test was no longer compulsory.
But whatever your opinion, the facts don't lie - regularly working on our aerobic fitness is great for our health.
Frequent aerobic exercise can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, help prevent some cancers and can improve mood, to name a few.
Aerobic exercises refer to activities that increase our heart and breathing rate and require us to pump oxygenated blood to our working muscles, this is so we can sustain the exercise for more than a few minutes.
Moderate intensity exercise is usually needed to get to an aerobic state (think: running, dancing or swimming) however if our heart rate increases too much and we become breathless quickly this can be considered anaerobic exercise.
Aerobic (with oxygen) and anaerobic exercise (without oxygen) are complete opposites, though all workouts can be either - it just depends on the intensity of the exercise and how fast your heart rate is.
Imagine going for a jog on a flat surface; no problem, right? You can keep this up for a while. Now imagine jogging uphill with a bag on your back - this isn't as easy despite it being the same exercise.
It's likely your heart will beat much faster because it needs to pump more oxygen to your muscles so you can continue, so you may only be able to do this in short bursts.
Aerobic exercises require stamina and endurance whereas anaerobic exercises require short bursts of speed or power, then energy stores are quickly depleted; however only a brief rest is needed to recharge - kind of like a cheetah.
It's important to note that everyone's threshold will be different depending on how fit they are.
Les Mills Personal Trainer Manager, Norm Phillips, says in order to increase your anaerobic fitness, you'll first need to improve your aerobic capacity.
How? By incorporating longer activities at a steady pace in your workout.
"Running, walking, biking for a hour or longer to gradually build your aerobic fitness base," suggests Phillips.
"Once you have a good base you can work on anaerobic fitness. This is done by doing short bursts of high intensity exercise - 10 to 45 seconds with a recovery period, then repeat the process."
Gym classes are a great way to improve your aerobic fitness without it feeling like work. Try RPM, Body Attack, Body Step or Body Combat to improve your aerobic fitness and if you're feeling game, try Grit classes to improve your anaerobic fitness.
Rowing, treadmills and high intensity weight training are also great options, though Phillips recommends a professional assist you with a program and nutrition plan to avoid over-training.
Don't have a gym? Try climbing stairs, hiking or sprinting - these are all great options to improve your aerobic fitness.