Aerobic Capacity; What Is It, How Do I Keep It &

Why Should I Worry?

Have you ever heard about Aerobic Capacity? It’s generally a term used around elite athletes and those who do competitions, particularly cycling and triathlon. It's very simple really it describes, mathematically, how much oxygen you use when exercising at a sustained and maximal capacity. That is when you are working as hard as you can. It is generally expressed as VO2max = mLO2/kg/min. You might hear people talk about their VO2 Max which is generally how it is talked about around the dinner table.

So of course it stands to reason that the more oxygen you can move around then the more energy you can produce and therefore you can go faster, or just keep going for some of us.

If per chance you are an elite athlete reading this you may well have gone to a laboratory where they can measure these things. If not you have probably seen them on television where they pinch your nose and give you some kind of oxygen mask and connect you up to machines, measure the gases you breathe in and out and sometimes take blood.

This really isn’t necessary for the everyday exercising person but the fact that this is done gives us some amazing insights, particularly when that information is in relation to what happens as we get older.

Now why might I be talking about this? It stands to reason that as we age our ability to do this might be reduced, and it is. So what has been discovered is that if you continue to exercise this reduction is not as dramatic as for people who do not. This of course can contribute to you being fitter and healthier than other people your age.

More importantly though researchers are beginning to realise that High Intensity Exercise is far more efficient than long slow endurance type exercise for older people to maintain this capacity at a higher level.

So the good and the bad news. Firstly you have to keep exercising to keep healthy, as well as eating a good and healthy diet which includes lots of healthy fats and fruit and vegetables. But the good news is that you don't have to do hours of high intensity exercise. Short bouts can be as good spread across the day. Even as little as 8 - 15 minutes a session twice a week will give you great benefits as a part of an overall plan. 

You can read more about HIIT further down the page. You can also listen in to my conversation with Peta Green from Strong Healthy Women about adding some to your weekly program.

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