The obvious and most frequently heard response to why exercise, other than ugh, is that it’s good for your body and makes the body healthy when we do it.
The less obvious and infrequently heard response to why exercise, other than ugh, is that it’s good for your body because you’re using large muscle group movements in excess of daily activity and achieving the training effect, and that’s why it’s good for you.
What is the training effect?
In a nutshell, the training effect is when your muscle groups adapt to the routine overloading caused by use beyond normal daily activity. Why that’s huge is the reason we’re talking about it.
When your body begins to adapt to exercise overload it becomes more efficient at its life giving processes. It also becomes more efficient in converting energy into work. It’s called the training effect.
The training effect makes you feel better because your simply getting fitter, and your slimming down and keeping slim as you train your metabolic pathways to more efficiently turn oxygen and fuel into energy through work.
That fuel your burning is either floating around from a recently eaten meal, or it’s stored away as fat in your body.
This simple idea of burning more energy than you store is the foundation for weight loss.
That is, your muscle groups need energy to perform their functions. So demand that your muscles work more and your body will respond in kind by converting fat, or what will become fat, into energy and burn off excess stores. Couple that with a good diet and that’s how you lose fat and get fit for the long term.
Keep in mind that while you’re improving your body’s metabolic pathways you’re also improving your aerobic fitness.
What does exercise actually do?
The effects of exercise operate on the cellular level of your muscle structures. By overloading the structures, you are modifying in a positive way how your muscle cells utilize oxygen. That’s the bottom line.
In order for your cells to get this oxygen, your respiratory and circulatory system also need modification. So your body works on its lungs and oxygen transport systems to increase their endurance levels. Now, while you can’t create new capacity, you can greatly improve your existing capacity. You simply become the best you possible.
- Increases the ability of muscle to use fat as energy
- Increases the efficiency of respiration
- Improves blood volume
- Improves cardiovascular efficiency
- Fine-tunes nervous and hormonal control mechanisms
What is the best exercise for you to do?
The ultimate goal of exercise is to have your metabolism operate between what’s called the first lactate threshold and the second lactate threshold.
These thresholds vary with each person and need to be determined by your own experimentation, work with your physician, and keeping track of where you fall in your body’s ability to work in its own aerobic intensity.
Generally speaking, exercise intensity levels are measured by heart-rate. Studies on exercise and the training effect show that having a heart rate between 120 and 150 beats per minute is exercising in the moderate range. The moderate range is where you want to be for maximum weight loss and fitness gain.
In the moderate range, your body is operating between the first and second lactate thresholds.
So the short answer to what exercise is best for you is any that gets you maintaining a moderate range heart-rate with the goal of hitting and staying in this range for 30 minute intervals a few times a week.
Beyond that, you can ride a bike, jog, yoga, brisk walk, swim, dance, or do solid labor to get the job done. The trick is finding something you like and sticking with it.
Aerobic fitness, the ultimate goal of exercise
Aerobic fitness is how well your body takes in, transports, and uses oxygen. There are elaborate methods to calculate your aerobic fitness, but they’ll all boil down to this: when you’re breathing hard how well are you making oxygen work for your body?
The technical term for the measurement is VO2, but safe to say, most people just need to know that if you’re breathing hard but can still maintain a mild conversation, you’re operating at your best VO2 level.
The dimensions of aerobic fitness are your VO2 ability and the ranges of your lactate thresholds. With the basic understanding you know have about exercise, and with knowledge of diet and nutrition, you are now ready to understand how to train your body to maximize its fitness to the fullest.