ALTERNATE FORMS OF AEROBIC EXERCISE
Some people cannot run. In such cases, they may use other
activities as supplements or alternatives. Swimming, bicycling, and cross-country
skiing are all excellent endurance exercises and are good substitutes
for running. Their drawback is that they require special equipment
and facilities that are not always available. As with all exercise,
trainers should start slowly and progress gradually.
Swimming is a good alternative to running. Some advantages
of swimming include the following:
- Involvement of all the major muscle groups.
- Body position that enhances the blood's return to the heart.
- Partial support of body weight by the water, which minimizes lower body stress in overweight people.
Swimming may be used to improve one's CR fitness level and
to maintain and improve CR fitness during recovery from an injury.
It is used to supplement running and develop upper body endurance
and limited strength. The swimmer should start slowly with a restful
stroke. After five minutes, he should stop to check his pulse,
compare it with his THR and, if needed, adjust the intensity.
Compared with all the other modes of aerobic exercise presented
in this manual (e.g., running, walking, cycling, cross-country
skiing, rope jumping, etc.) in swimming alone, one's THR should
be lower than while doing the other forms of aerobic exercise.
This is because, in swimming, the heart does not beat as fast
as when doing the other types of exercise at the same work rate.
Thus, in order to effectively train the CR system during swimming,
a person should set his THR about 10 bpm lower than while running.
For example, a person whose THR while running is 150 bpm should
have a THR of about 140 bpm while swimming. By modifying their
THRs in this manner while swimming, exercisers will help to ensure
that they are working at the proper intensity.
Non-swimmers can run in waist-to chest-deep water, tread water,
and do pool-side kicking for an excellent aerobic workout. They
can also do calisthenics in the water. Together these activities
combine walking and running with moderate resistance work for
the upper body.
Cycling is an excellent exercise for developing CR fitness.
One can bicycle outdoors or on a stationary cycling machine
indoors. Road cycling should be intense enough to allow the individual to reach and maintain THR at least 30 minutes.
Cyclers can alter the cycling intensity by changing gears,
adding hill work, and increasing velocity. Distance can also be
increased to enhance CR fitness, but the distance covered is not
as important as the amount of time spent training at THR. The intensity of a workout can
be increased by increasing the resistance against the wheel or
increasing the pedaling cadence (number of RPM). For interval
training, one can vary the speed and resistance and use
periods of active recovery at low speed and/or low resistance.
Walking is another way to develop cardiorespiratory fitness.
It is enjoyable, requires no equipment, and causes few injuries.
However, unless walking is done for a long time at the correct
intensity, it will not produce any significant CR conditioning.
People with a low degree of fitness should begin
slowly with 12 minutes of walking at a comfortable pace. The heart
rate should be monitored to determine the intensity. The trainer
should walk at least four times a week and add two minutes each
week to every workout until the duration reaches 45 to 60 minutes
per workout. One can increase the intensity by adding hills or
As the walker's fitness increases, he should walk 45 to 60
minutes at a faster pace. A simple way to increase walking speed
is to carry the arms the same way as in running. With this technique
the walker has a shorter arm swing and takes steps at a faster
rate. Swinging the arms faster to increase the pace is a modified
form of race walking (power walking) which allows for more upper-body
work. After about three months, even the most unfit people should reach
a level of conditioning that lets them move into a running program.
Cross-country or Nordic skiing is another excellent alternative
to the usual CR activities. It requires vigorous movement of the
arms and legs which develops muscular and endurance
and coordination. Some of the highest levels of aerobic fitness
ever measured have been found in cross-country skiers.
Although some regions lack snow, one form or another of cross-country
skiing can be done almost anywhere--on country roads, golf courses,
open fields, and in parks and forests.
Cross-country skiing is easy to learn. The action is similar
to that used in brisk walking, and the intensity may be varied
as in running. The work load is determined by the difficulty of
terrain, the pace, and the frequency and duration of rest periods.
Equipment is reasonably priced, with skis, boots, and poles often
obtainable from the outdoor recreation services.
Rope skipping is also a good exercise for developing CR fitness.
It requires little equipment, is easily learned, may be done almost
anywhere, and is not affected by weather. Some runners use it
as a substitute for running during bad weather.
A beginner should select a jump rope that, when doubled and stood on, reaches to
the armpits. Weighted handles or ropes may be used by better-conditioned trainers to improve upper body strength. Rope skippers should
begin with five minutes of jumping rope and then monitor their
heart rate. They should attain and maintain their THR to ensure
a training effect, and the time spent jumping should be increased
as the fitness level improves.
Rope jumping, however, may be stressful
to the lower extremities and therefore should be limited to no
more than three times a week. One should skip rope on a cushioned
surface such as a mat or carpet and should wear cushioned shoes.
HANDBALL AND RACQUET SPORTS
Handball and the racquet sports (tennis, squash, and racquetball)
involve bursts of intense activity for short periods. They do
not provide the same degree of aerobic training as exercises of
longer duration done at lower intensities. However, these sports
are good supplements and can provide excellent aerobic benefits
depending on the skill of the players. If played vigorously each
day, they may be an adequate substitute for low-level aerobic
training. Because running increases endurance, it helps improve
performance in racket sports, but the reverse is not necessarily
EXERCISE TO MUSIC
Aerobic exercise done to music is another excellent alternative
to running. It is a motivating, challenging activity that combines
exercise and rhythmic movements. There is no prerequisite skill,
and it can be totally individualized to every fitness level by
varying the frequency, intensity, and duration. One can move to
various tempos while jogging or doing jumping jacks, hops, jumps,
or many other calisthenics.
Workouts can be done in a small space by diverse groups of
varying fitness levels. Heart rates should be taken during the
conditioning phase to be sure the workout is sufficiently intense.
If strengthening exercises are included, the workout addresses
every component of fitness. Holding relatively light dumbbells
during the work-out is one way to increase the intensity for the
upper body and improve muscular endurance. Warm-up and cool-down
stretches should be included in the aerobic workout.