How do you tap your inner aerobic self? It is simple. By using the strongest muscles in your body – the muscles of your legs. When you move your legmuscles vigorously, continuously, steadily for 20 to 42 minutes, four to six times a week, they push your cardiovascular system (heart, lungs and circulatory system) into working at a rate that demands large amounts of oxygen. And since our entire body-brain system is built to work on the principle of oxygen-inhalation, it brings about dramatic, miraculous changes within us.
This entire ‘aerobicising” process would be described in two ways by two doctors. A clinically-oriented doctor would tell you that when your heart beats 70 to 85 per cent of the figure derived from subtracting your age from 220, you are in your aerobic target zone and that will:
improve the efficiency of your cardiovascular system.
enlarge muscle fibres.
increase the number of capillaries that supply blood to your muscle tissue,
increase the uptake of blood glucose by your skeletal muscles.
enhance the fat-burning ability of your muscle tissue and make you leaner.
raise your high-density lipoproteins (HDL) which reduce the risk of heart diseases,
reduce triglyceride levels that are one of the causes of heart problems.
A doctor with a philosophical outlook would translate these happenings and tell you that aerobics will:
make you lose weight.
banish your depression.
raise your self-belief and self-confidence.
make you healthy.
Both doctors would be right in their assessment. The clinical conditions create the positive feelings that swamp you. The former appeal to your sense of mechanical inner working, the latter appeals to your thinking, creative self. By understanding both, you become the experiencer rather than remaining a passive observer. The experiencer in you rejoices in the weight-loss, in the happy feelings, in the energy coursing through you. What’s more, it’s not only about banishing depression, it’s about rising above your normal level into the vivid zone where everything appears more etched, and clearer – the leaves acquire a shining green, the sunshine appears more golden, people appear more benign and friendly. It is as if the lens in your mind has focussed more sharply.
Why is it that we keep emphasising on aerobics? Why haven’t we recommended isometrics, isotonics, anaerobics?
Isometrics are when you pit one set of muscles against another or against a heavy object – say, when you stand in your doorway and push both hands in opposite directions on the doorjamb. Since they involve very little movement and hardly any oxygen, they serve the limited purpose of increasing the size and strength of your skeletal muscles. But they don’t do anything for your heart, lungs and circulatory system. They have their uses for body-builders, or for patients whose muscles have atrophied.
Isotonics are similar to isometrics except that they involve a little more movement – like archery or weight-lifting. Primarily, they help in loosening your muscles and strengthening and toning them. They demand a little more oxygen than isometrics but not enough to make your cardiovascular system more efficient. Weight-lifters may look down their rugged noses at a jogger. But strengthening only your skeletal muscles does not make you a healthier person. After all, what is the use of being able to lift heavy weights if you end up as a huffing-puffing heap after you run up your stairway?
Anaerobics demands short bursts of oxygen – like when you run to catch your bus. Again, they do nothing for you in the long-term except to make you hold on to a railing while you regain your breath.