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Information on Aerobics

By  , Expert Content
Jan 17, 2013
4.8 / 5(4 Ratings)

Aerobics is a form of physical activity (exercise) which uses the large muscle groups (muscles of the legs, thighs and hips) of the body to work in a continuous and rhythmic pattern at a low to moderate intensity for a long duration (Minimum 20 minutes or longer).

Running, jogging, brisk walking, cycling, stair climbing, skipping rope and aerobic classes are all examples of aerobic activities. All these activities overload the heart, blood vessels and lungs to make them work harder to supply oxygen rich blood to the working muscles. As a result, the cardiovascular and respiratory system becomes stronger and more efficient. Moreover, aerobic exercises are the best way to burn excess fat.

An aerobic class is a group exercise performed to a specific music led by a qualified instructor who makes the class workout with a variety of choreographed movements set on that specific music. The intensity of the workout is usually controlled by music and choreographed movement patterns designed by the instructor. Every aerobics instructor has a different format for his / her class as per their own perspective.

Ideally an aerobic class should last about 45 minutes to one hour. The class should begin with a 5 to 10 min of warm up and dynamic stretching which prepares the body for the following workout which lasts at least 20 to 45 minutes. This is concluded with a cool down and static stretching segment of again 5 to 10 minutes which helps the body gradually recover from the stimulus phase and reach the pre-exercise state. The frequency of the class should be 5 to 6 days a week, out of which 3 to 4 days should be dedicated to cardio-respiratory conditioning and 2 to 3 days should be dedicated to weight training for upper and lower body and core (abdominal and lower back muscles) strengthening exercises. Flexibility training (stretching) can be done every day or as an individual segment. Thus a 5 to 6 days a week aerobics class takes care of cardio-respiratory, muscular and flexibility fitness.

 
Types

 There are various types of aerobic classes out of which an individual can choose as per his / her interest and goal related to fitness.



1.    The Traditional Floor Aerobics

This consists of certain movements which go forward, backward or lateral choreographed to a specific music. They are either high impact moves or low impact moves.

Depending upon instructor to instructor, and the level of participants this class can be low impact (where one foot remains in contact with the floor at all times), high impact (both feet leave the floor simultaneously) or a mix of both. A low impact aerobic class is best for beginners and de-conditioned individuals whereas a high impact class interests highly fit individuals. However, high impact moves done repetitively for a long period of time taxing the joints and can lead to musculoskeletal injuries.

It is up to the efficiency and creativity of the instructor to design a safe as well as an effective class for the participants.

2.    Step Aerobics

In a step aerobics class, the choreographed moves are performed on an elevated platform or step which can be adjusted to various heights starting from 4” to 12” (4”, 6”, 8” 10” and 12”). A participant graduates from a lower platform height to a higher one depending upon the fitness level. The choreography involves stepping up and down the platform in possibly every direction. The moves can be high impact or low impact as designed by the instructor. Any good instructor will always demonstrate a substitute for a high impact move for participants who are not very comfortable.

Step Aerobics is one of the most popular cardio exercises and most preferred by women. It mainly targets the legs, hips and glutes and can burn approximately 400 calories in 30 minutes during a high intensity session with a raised platform.

    * To obtain perfect results you need to look for a certified trainer who clubs the cardio with weight training.
    * Wear good shoes with fore foot flexibility and an arch.
    * Wear your socks to avoid getting bruised.
    * Land softly when stepping down the step.
    * Do not pound and stay close to the step.

3.    Dance Aerobics

This type of aerobic class is designed using steps from various dance forms such as Hip-hop, Salsa, Jazz and even Bollywood dancing! These classes are great fun along with exercise at the same time.

Such classes can either be a mix of steps from certain dance forms or inspired from just one form of dancing that is hip hop aerobics, bollywood aerobics and so on. The music used in such classes is either as per the dance form or a mix and match of certain beats and songs.

4.    Cardio Kickboxing

This form of aerobic class blends the elements of boxing, martial arts and traditional aerobics into a high intensity cardio-respiratory exercise workout routine. This is a non-contact workout routine in which a participant punches, kicks and strikes through the air rather than an opponent. Cardio kickboxing routine is qualified as a total body workout as it uses several muscles of the upper body as well, whereas other regular aerobics classes use only large muscles of the lower body. Only people who are reasonably fit with no medical ailment are good candidates for this type of class.

5.    Bhangra Aerobics

This is a high-energy workout consisting of dance moves inspired by the traditional folk dance – Bhangra, from the state of Punjab. The instructor choreographs the dance moves in a specific pattern on the Bhangra music which is usually drum beats.

6.    Aqua Aerobics

This type of activity is performed in shallow water such as a swimming pool. This routine combines a variety of land aerobics activity form such as traditional aerobics, running or walking forward and backward, jumping and so on along with various arm movements. There are certain floatation equipments as well, which are used for a variety of other exercises. Aqua aerobics can be done with or without music. The advantage of aqua aerobics is that it is absolutely low impact and non weight bearing and hence safe for people with musculoskeletal injuries, pregnant women and the elderly.  

 
Benefits of Aerobics

  •     Aerobic activity improves cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels) and respiratory (lungs) fitness. It increases the level of HDL (High Density Lipoprotein), which is heart friendly cholesterol. It maintains an optimum blood pressure, maintains elasticity of arteries which minimizes the risk of blood clots and heart attack and thus reduces the risk of several heart and lung diseases and certain cancers.
  •     It is a high energy activity which requires a lot of calories. Thus people who are looking forward to lose excess weight and body fat can go ahead with aerobics. The number of calories burned while performing in an aerobic class depends upon the participant’s age, gender, and body weight, intensity of the choreography, music tempo and efficiency of the participant.
  •     It strengthens the immune system by increasing the concentration of WBC (white blood cells which fight diseases) in the blood.
  •     Aerobics is a weight bearing activity (you bear your own body weight while exercising) hence it strengthens and builds the muscles and bones. This reduces risk of osteoporosis.
  •     Aerobics slows down the process of ageing by conditioning the body systems and building and strengthening the bones and muscles which tend to weaken as we age.
  •     Aerobics has great psychological benefits. While exercising, hormones called endorphins are released in the body, which gives a great sense of feel-good factor. The participant feels happy and less stressed. As aerobics is a very challenging activity, it results in a sense of accomplishment and pride on completing every single aerobic session.
  •     Aerobic classes are a lot of fun and motivation so you are more likely to stick to your exercise regime and continue to reap health and fitness benefits.
  •     In an aerobic class, you workout in a group, you have an instructor to monitor you and motivate you throughout so even if you want to give up, you will not and end up working out at your level best.
  •     With regular practice you get to enjoy and understand music better and learn to shake a leg on the right note.
  •     You make friends in an aerobic class, laugh and have fun. This is a great stress buster.

 

Cautions to be observed before enrolling

  •     Make sure you exercise under a qualified and experienced aerobics instructor.
  •     Check the facility before joining. It should be clean and well equipped along with sprung wooden flooring which is the most appropriate workout surface for an aerobic class.
  •     Consult your doctor if you suffer from any heart, lung related, muscle, joint related disease or or have undergone some recent surgery.
  •     Always reach your class on time so that you do not miss the warm up, which is an important segment of the class. Reaching on time also indicates that you are serious for your exercise.
  •     Inform your instructor in advance, if you suffer from any medical ailment.
  •     Do not continue to exercise if you feel any discomfort and report to the instructor immediately.
  •     Wear shoes meant for aerobics.
  •     Keep sipping water after every 15 to 20 minutes.
  •     Never exercise when you have fever or flu.


 
Diet and Nutrition with aerobics activity

 
Any aerobic activity must be complimented with a nutritious eating plan. Food gives us energy which is used as fuel when we exercise. The quality of our exercise will depend upon our diet plan. Hence, a balance of the right amount of carbohydrates (60%), proteins (15%), fats (25%), vitamins and minerals should be derived from a variety of healthful food items. One should ideally eat small portion meals 5-6 times a day with a gap of 2-3 hours in between each meal. This will keep you high in energy throughout the day.

Excellent sources of carbohydrates

  •     Whole grains.
  •     Whole grain cereals and breads.
  •     Fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables (Green and Yellow).
  •     Brown rice.
  •     Whole wheat pasta.


Excellent sources of proteins

  •     Low fat dairy products such as milk, cottage cheese, curd, buttermilk.
  •     Soymilk and Tofu (Soy paneer).
  •     Eggs.
  •     Fish (Tuna, Salmon), Lean Meats and chicken.
  •     Nuts (Almonds and Walnuts) in moderation.
  •     Beans.


Excellent sources of Good fats (Omega 3 fatty acids – essential fatty acids required by the body)

  •     Fish / fish oil.
  •     Nuts
  •     Olive oil.
  •     Flaxseed / flaxseed oil.


All these food items will give you all the required vitamins and minerals. However, there are certain food rules to follow before any aerobic activity. Avoid foods like milk, cheese and ice cream just before an aerobics class as they contain lactose, a milk sugar, which many people are unable to digest easily. This may create discomfort while exercising and lead to stomach cramps. Avoid beans and vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage as they have the tendency to produce gas which will again be uncomfortable for the activity. Do not eat hard to digest proteins and fats just before exercising as they may take longer to get absorbed into your system and interrupt into your exercise session. Most of the blood supply will shift to the gastrointestinal tract for digestion rather than to the working muscles supporting aerobic activity. Watch your meal timings. There should be a gap of three hours between a big meal and exercising. Eat dinner two hours before going to bed always in case you plan to attend an early morning class and very important, always try to clear your system before any physical activity.

As for how many calories a person should consume depends upon the goal, activity level and lifestyle of an individual. In general, women should consume in between 1,200 to 1,500 kcal a day and men should consume 1,800 to 2,000 kcal a day.

 
Basic tool kit for aerobics activity

  •     Aerobic shoes and socks.
  •     A workout mat for floor exercises.
  •     A hand towel and water bottle.
  •     Comfortable and appropriate workout gear.
  •     Women must wear a sports bra.


 
Injuries and Injury Management

Injuries are very common due to the repetitive and high impact nature of the aerobics activity. A few of the most common injuries are listed below with brief description.


1.    The Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS)

The Iliotibial band is a sheath of thick and fibrous connective tissue which attaches at the top of the hip bone and the tensor fascia latae muscle. It runs down to the outside of the thigh and insert into the outer surface of the shin bone. Its function is to straighten the knee joint and to move the hip out sideways.

Signs and Symptoms of ITBS

  •     Pain during straightening and bending the knee and worse when pressed in at the side of the knee over the sore port.
  •     Tightness in the Iliotibal band.
  •     Aggravation of pain during aerobic activity.
  •     Weakness in moving the hip sideways.


Self prevention and treatment

  •     Rest and avoid the sport for a while.
  •     Apply ice pack to reduce inflammation.
  •     Stretch the IT band after the class.
  •     Consult a sports injury specialist.


2.    Shin Splints

Pain at the front of the lower leg (below the knee to the ankle) can indicate shin splints. The bone of the lower leg (shin bone) gets inflamed due to traction forces.

Signs and Symptoms of Shin Splints

  •     Pain over the inside of the shin.
  •     Initial pain at the beginning of exercise and then it eases as the exercise proceeds.
  •     Post exercise pain which worsens the next morning.
  •     Swelling (occasional).
  •     Pain on bending the toe or foot downwards.


Self treatment

  •     Rest to allow healing.
  •     Ice packs.
  •     Stretching the muscles of the lower leg.
  •     Reduce shock on the lower leg by wearing shock absorbing insoles in shoes.
  •     Consult a sports injury specialist.


3.    Achilles Tendonitis

The Achilles tendon is a large tendon (a connective tissue which connects muscle to the bone) at the back of ankle which connects the calf muscle to the heel bone and provides power during the push off phase of the aerobic movements.

Signs and Symptoms

  •     Pain at the initiation of exercise and then fades as the exercise proceeds.
  •     Tenderness on palpation.
  •     Relief with rest.
  •     Pain in tendon while walking, especially uphill and upstairs.
  •     If not treated may become a chronic injury which is difficult to treat.


Self treatment

  •     Rest and ice packs.
  •     Consult a sports injury specialist.


4.    Stress Fracture of the Femur (Thigh) bone

Local tenderness and vague pain in the thigh that arises while doing aerobic activity.

Signs and Symptoms

  •     A deep and dull ache in the thigh area.
  •     Pain increases when the thigh is allowed to hang over the edge of a bench or chair.


Self Treatment

  •     Rest from high impact aerobic activity and maintain fitness by non-weight bearing activities such as swimming or cycling.
  •     Consult a sports injury specialist.


5.    Snapping Hip

This is a condition which results in a snapping noise and feeling around the hip joint.

Signs and Symptoms

  •     A feeling of snapping or clicking on the outside and/or in the front of hip.
  •     At times a snapping sound can be heard.
  •     Usually not painful.


Self treatment

  •     Rest may help.
  •     Stretch the muscles around the hip and thigh.
  •     Consult a sports injury specialist.


6.    Plantar Fascitis

Plantar fascia is a band of connective tissue that runs from the heel bone to the ball of the foot.

Signs and Symptoms

  •     When strained, small tears develop and it stiffens which may also lead to inflammation.
  •     In this condition you feel pain in the heel or arch of the foot in the morning as this tissue stiffens during the night.


Self treatment

  •     Rest.
  •     Stretch the foot by rolling it on a golf ball or a full water bottle.
  •     Wear supportive shoes or sandals.
  •     Ice pack.
  •     Consult a sports injury specialist.


7.    Blisters

Blisters are a common problem while starting an aerobics activity. Ill-fitting shoes or too much moisture next to your skin may lead to blisters. Thus, wear shoes that fit well and are meant for aerobics. Always wear socks that soak up sweat.

Self Treatment

Blisters if left unattended can become a chronic problem. Take the following steps to control and cure:

  •     Stop aerobic exercising.
  •     Protect it with a band-aid. Do not try to pop it and let it heal completely.
  •     If self treatment does not help, consult a physician.


8.    Ankle Sprains

Sprains may occur when you abruptly twist or turn your ankle while doing any move. Always watch where you step.

Signs and Symptoms

  •     Sprains are painful and is accompanied with tenderness and swelling.


Self Treatment

  •     Rest and elevate your foot above the level of your heart.
  •     Use ice packs.
  •     Use a compression bandage.
  •     Visit a sports injury specialist.

 

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