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Low-Level Aerobic Activity: Incorporate Daily Activities Into Your Exercise Routine

by Zac Howe

Most of us have experienced taking a leisurely stroll through the park, when all of a sudden a group of energetic pavement pounders zip by, leaving us in the dust and wondering, “Should I be moving more?”

It’s time to end the guilt trip and tell the no-pain-no-gain crowd to pipe down, as science shows overexertion is not always necessary—enter low-level aerobic activity.

Low-level aerobic activity constitutes the base level of fitness, working around 55 to 75 percent of the maximum heart rate. Don’t fret too much about the exact percentages; most everyone will be a little different. Just pay attention to the body and act appropriately. One can learn a lot about the self when truly paying attention.

Aim for some general guidelines, such as 10,000 steps per day, keeping a100-step-per-minute pace. Low-level aerobic activity isn’t restricted to just walking. Elegant dancing, pleasurable bike rides, raking leaves or a quick dip in the pool all count—the possibilities are infinite. If one can’t carry on a conversation during activity, then he or she is going too hard. But if one is yawning in the middle of activity, then one’s pace isn’t hard enough.

“Not only is low-level aerobic activity the natural evolutionary expectation of the body, it’s flat out beneficial in its own right. It plays an integral role in maintaining weight and metabolic balance. It also builds your base and makes more strenuous workouts possible by toning all the muscles, joints and connective tissue needed for optimal strength training and high-intensity aerobic activity. Low-level aerobic exercise engages your energy systems and incrementally improves their functioning and efficiency. And while it does all that, it also physiologically and hormonally counters the effects of stress,” writes health aficionado Mark Sisson on his blog, Mark’s Daily Apple.

The benefits are largely aggregate in that they build upon each other. Also, low-level aerobic activity is only one piece of the exercise puzzle. It is still important to train anaerobically (without oxygen) by sprinting in intervals, rowing or lifting heavy weights at least once a week.

Low-level aerobic activity may not be as heroic as running for miles on end, but it does check many boxes when it comes to healthy living. Sure, this type of activity can feel passive, and even indulgent at times, but do not be so quick to write off the cumulative benefits, and do not be afraid to indulge.

Zac Howe is an Oklahoma City-based holistic strength coach, and a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Connect with him at CoachZacHowe@gmail.com or visit ZacHowe.com.

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