Use Physical Activity to Improve Your Overall Health



Physical activity is something each of us engages in every day, on some level or another, However, without the right kind of physical activity, the body is not pushed to burn calories, build muscles or lose fat. Finding a pace that pushes your body to work harder can increase your endurance without causing injury or burnout.

You'll feel the 'muscle burn' during workouts that lets you know you are reaching your maximum potential – with time and practice, you can shove that threshold further and further away until you can exercise for long periods of time without exceeding your capabilities.

Anaerobic Threshold

Muscles can burn glucose one of two ways: aerobically or anaerobically. During activities such as long term steady running, exercise on a machine such as a stationary bike, or swimming, where the effort keeps pace with oxygen intake. Short burst of energy, such as are expended when lifting a heavy weight or sprinting, cause the muscles switch over to the anaerobic system. Lactic acid builds up in the muscles, eventually causing spasms, cramping and muscle exhaustion, at which point a break is needed. This is the anaerobic threshold.

You can gradually increase your anaerobic threshold by building up your endurance. You can also increase your maximum oxygen intake (VO2 max) over time. As your ability to train longer and harder increases, both your anaerobic and aerobic capabilities will increase, giving you the ability to do more reps and sets.

The best way to increase thresholds is by engaging in physical activity that pushes you to the edge of your capabilities, allows a short break, then returns to push the threshold again. Running workouts are one of the best ways to achieve this, as you can monitor your heart rate and do hard pushes at intervals with 'breaks' of walking or slow running.

Breaking the Barrier

As a rule of thumb, if you can still carry on casual conversation during your physical activity, you aren't working hard enough to make an impact. If your heart rate monitor shows you are at about 70%, then your VO2 is at about 55%. The closer you get to 90% on your heart rate monitor, the closer you are to reaching your VO2max. The more oxygen you take in the more good your workout is doing you!

Running isn't the only way to push your anaerobic threshold; it's just one of the easiest. Similar results can be achieved using exercise equipment such as ellipticals, treadmills, rowing machines and exercise bicycles. By varying your workout speed and intensity, you can push the limits of your endurance and increase the number of calories burned as well as developing muscle flexibility and strength.

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