Aerobic energy production is the foundation to overall fitness and the longer you exercise, the more your body depends on the cardiovascular system. Any type of training will benefit from strong aerobic endurance and it is a required component for any type of fitness or athletic training. For example, recovery between the sets during the weight training will be improved when the aerobic system is strong.
Integrated Functional Movement
Conventional thinking assumes that genetic composition determines whether you can walk or run efficiently. Many people believe that they are not born to run. On the contrary, the human body is anatomically designed to run using principles of kinesiology, a science of human movement. If you don’t understand what parts of the body should be engaged for efficient walking and running you will be forcing your own way of unnatural movement on your body.
This leads to a high impact movement and that’s why most people don’t enjoy and hate running. Pelvis, spine and hip joints form the skeletal portion of the overall alignment. Gluteal, upper and lower body muscles comprise the musculature to move the skeletal joint and bones. If you use quadriceps and hamstrings as primary movers for walking and running it will lead to undue stress on your body and can contribute to injuries.
If you experience a high impact during walking or running it means that the required joints and muscles are not properly aligned. In the long term, walking and running “your own way” will affect your ability to walk as you are getting older.
Aerobic endurance and stamina are defined as the ability to maintain a vigorous intensity at a constant level for a prolonged period of time. You need to develop a better understanding of aerobic fitness, and cardiovascular training should be expanded beyond the “cardio” approach which is prevalent in most training programs.
Low-intensity cardiorespiratory exercise does not typically bring any significant improvements in developing endurance as compared with higher intensity activities. Long walks at a slow pace are ineffective to build a strong aerobic system.
I use speed walking with my clients to start developing aerobic endurance. Emphasis is made on a gradual buildup by combining moderate and vigorous intensity. If you find it difficult to increase speed while walking, your stride is not efficient. I train my clients to make their walking stride more efficient and start gradually increasing speed and distance. They learn how to maintain a proper alignment and what body parts should be used for walking, jogging or running.
The stride improvement is divided into three stages: speed/race walking, jogging and running. During the walking stage the focus is made to improve the walking gait, increase speed and to minimize the impact on your body. If you learn how to perform speed and race walking efficiently you can transition to jogging and running.
Exercise and Chronic Cardio
Poor stride biomechanics tend to engage improper muscles as primary movers. Faulty running or jogging technique makes the pace uneven and turns into interval anaerobic training. Most sports such as tennis, racquetball, squash, football, ice and roller hockey, soccer, weight lifting, baseball, golf, basketball – just to name a few – utilize a short duration and high-intensity effort lasting from merely seconds up to two minutes.
Aerobic means “with oxygen” and anaerobic means “without oxygen”. Anaerobic exercise is when you get out of breath in just a few seconds by sprinting or jumping. It should be noted that a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is effective as a part of your training pogram. However, if you use these workouts as “the only cardio” it can be very harmful to your health and fitness.
If the cardiovascular system is not strong it is unable to supply all the necessary energy and the anaerobic system is activated to compensate the shortage. It is not widely understood that the brain determines to supply either aerobic or anaerobic energy based on the body movement pace. If your training includes short bouts of effort the anaerobic energy will be provided. It is important to point that it is not programming of your workouts defines if your training is aerobic or anaerobic.
Walking and running anaerobically at a variable pace turns into “chronic cardio” and it will increase production of stress hormones and put stress on your immune, hormonal, digestive and nervous systems. Also, anaerobic exercise creates oxygen deficit, muscle imbalances and fatigue with physical and mental burnout to follow.
Walking, Jogging and
Any form of aerobic training requires movement and engagement of the proper muscles and the specific sequences of movements. As opposed to walking, jogging and running demand higher movement efficiency or impact on the joints and muscles becomes very significant. I recommend to transition to jogging and running after you are able to complete a 2-mile speed walk at a moderate or fast pace.
The human body is born to move and our ancestors regularly ran long distances as a part of their lifestyle. If you learn how to move your body with minimal impact, then walking, jogging and running is the most effective way to build optimal aerobic fitness and endurance.
You don’t have to jog or run to reach intensity for building aerobic endurance and stamina. If you transition from moderate pace walking to speed walking you can achieve a sufficient intensity to develop a strong aerobic system.
Some of my older clients with no prior experience were skeptical about running and jogging, but when they improved their walking stride they started jogging as a natural extension of their training process.
Stationary Cycling, Road Cycling and Mountain Biking
Cycling is an effective way to stay active and to get an aerobic exercise. The low impact of cycling does not put much stress on joints and it is prescribed by physical therapists during the rehabilitation process. I use cycling with my clients as a cross-training alternative. However, cycling is not weight-bearing exercise and it can affect your bone density (if weight-bearing cardiovascular training is not included) because the bones do not work against gravity during cycling.
Step Aerobics and Stair Stepping Machines
Step aerobics and stepping machines are popular in many fitness clubs. Cardio equipment is designed to provide one or two-dimensional motions with constant repetition. The use of cardio machinery can lead to hip joint tightness, lower back problems and elevated shoulders when grasping the handles.
Lack of proper alignment when you use stair stepping machines can prevent you from standing upright and make you lean or hang on the machine, which will distort your posture and reduce the exercise intensity. In addition, poor stride biomechanics can prevent reaching the necessary intensity and cause injuries.
Treadmills and Elliptical Machines
Treadmills can be used to develop aerobic endurance and stamina. However, the thread surface is moving continuously and you need an advanced functional movement efficiency to walk or run with minimal impact.
If you are unable to shift weight properly and roll through the feet from heel, to arch, to ball and toe during every stride it will result in a heavy foot strike and injuries. Efficient weight shift is accomplished by moving the center of body weight as opposed to using the legs to move the entire body.
Elliptical machines are non-weight bearing and the bones do not work against gravity, which will affect the bone density – a condition related to osteoporosis. When you use elliptical machines, you exercise mostly the heart and other systems of the body do not receive a comparable load. This contradicts the science of human movement because the body is supposed to work as an integrated system.
Also, the pedals of the elliptical machines are set apart beyond your natural range of motion of the pelvis and hip joints and it can lead to an improper walking gait in the long-term.
Rowing and Cross-Country
Rowing recruits upper body musculature and much of the pulling action is carried out by the lower body muscles. Benefits of rowing can be minimized if attention is not paid to keeping neutral spine and pelvis alignment by engaging proper muscles and preventing rounded shoulders.
Cross-country skiing strengthens the musculature and builds aerobic endurance. Also, it moves the body in three planes of motion and functions as one integrated system.
It should be noted that rowing and cross-country skiing are partially weight-bearing, which can compromise the results of this type of training. Further studies are needed to determine to what extent the lack of full resistance to gravity would affect bone mineral density.