Aerobic capacity measures the maximum amount of oxygen you can take in while exercising. According to the American Council on Exercise, you can measure your aerobic capacity by estimating or by using equipment usually found in a cardiac physician's office. As you become healthier and fit, your aerobic capacity tends to increase.
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Walking on a treadmill is an effective way to increase your aerobic capacity. You can maintain a level of intensity while walking on a treadmill, more so than when walking on the street, where you can encounter problems such as unfavorable weather or uneven pavement. Start slowly on the treadmill if you are new to exercising. Increase the speed of the treadmill slowly to prevent injury and to allow your lungs to adapt to the increased oxygen uptake. Depending on your fitness goals, you should use the treadmill for 20 to 60 minutes continuously three to five days a week.
Cycling on a stationary bike is another effective tool for increasing aerobic capacity in a controlled environment. In addition to increasing the speed and duration of each session, you can place additional stress on your heart and lungs by increasing the resistance on your pedals. It takes more oxygen to ride uphill and stationary bikes often include settings to raise the incline of your workout on the bike. Cycling is ideal for beginners because it is easy to control and maintain a consistent intensity than some other forms of aerobic conditioning. According to Exrx, an online exercise library for fitness trainers, cycling is the most effective exercise for increasing aerobic capacity.
Aerobic classes often are provided for various levels of fitness. Beginners can start in shorter, less demanding classes and move up to high intensity aerobic step classes as they increase their aerobic capacity. Aerobics teachers keep you going non-stop for the duration of the class, so you can easily measure your improvement by taking the same class throughout the week. When the first class becomes effortless, you'll know that you've improved and can move on to the more intense workouts.
Sprints primarily are used to increase anaerobic capacity, which is the ability to perform without taking in extra oxygen. When combined with rest periods, sprints also can help to increase your aerobic condition. According to Shah Training, by engaging in high intensity short spurts of running, followed by short resting intervals, you train your body to efficiently use the oxygen while you are at rest. One example of sprints combined with rest is to run 60 meters and then rest for 45 seconds, four times in a row. Follow that with six 40-meter sprints and a 30- second rest for six repetitions and then 10 reps of 20-meter sprints and 20-second rests.