Regardless of what your fitness goals may be, aerobic capacity is an important metric to focus on. It determines how well your body can utilize oxygen. Simply put, the better the aerobic capacity, the longer you will be able to sustain exercises. Aerobic training not only helps achieve peak fitness but also improves cardiac health and respiratory functions. An individual's genetic makeup can determine up to 50% of their aerobic capacity by influencing factors such as antioxidant production, heart function, etc. The analysis of such genes and their variants can give a clearer idea of the kind of training you need to take on to achieve maximum results.
Aerobic Capacity: How do you define it
Aerobic capacity (AC) is the maximum amount of oxygen consumed while performing intense activities that involve large muscle groups.
It is also a measure of how effectively the heart and the lungs get oxygen to the muscles. Hence, improving your aerobic capacity can directly result in more efficient use of oxygen by the body.
The other term which is used to describe aerobic capacity is vO2 max.
However, the vO2 max also takes into consideration the individual's body weight.
Calculating Your Aerobic Capacity
One of the best ways to estimate your cardiovascular fitness is by calculating your aerobic capacity.
If you are in a fitness center, one of the following two techniques can be used to measure your AC
- Sub-maximal fitness training: This test starts with you pedaling against a specific workload while your heart rate is being monitored.
The workload is gradually increased till the heart rate climbs up to three-fourths of your maximum heart rate.
These two variables are then plotted against each other to get an estimate of your AC
- Maximal fitness training: This is more accurate than sub-maximal fitness training but is also more complicated.
It requires an additional mouthpiece and nose-clip set-up to measure oxygen uptake.
Please note that both the sub-maximal and maximal training require the supervision of a fitness trainer.
A simpler and less accurate way of measurement is a walk/run test.
This requires walking/running at the maximum speed you can and measuring your heart rate at the end of it.
With this measurement, you can use one of the many online calculators that are available to check your Aerobic Capacity.
For instance, the Rockport walk test is one such calculator that requires the input of your heart rate, time of the run/walk, and your weight to calculate your Aerobic Capacity.
The Genetic Story
Genes majorly control a lot of factors that have an association with the fitness levels of an individual.
According to a study in 2016, 155 genetic markers were found to be associated with better athletic performance, 93 of which were endurance-related markers, and the other 62 were power/strength related markers.
Polymorphisms of ACE, ADRB, ACTN3, PPARGC1A were one of the first genetic markers found to be associated with athletic performance.
There's another famous exercise genetics study conducted by a consortium of five universities in the United States and Canada revealed astonishing variation in the aerobic capacity among the 481 participants.
The study subjected its participants to identical stationary-bicycle training regimens with three workouts per week of increasing intensity under strict control in the lab.
- 15% of participants showed little or no aerobic capacity gain
- Up to 15% of the participants showed an increase in the amount of oxygen their bodies could use by 50 percent or more.
These can be attributed to the variants of genes like NRF1, NRF2, VEGF, PPARA, etc. that an individual carries.
The nuclear respiratory factor (NRF2) gene influences the vo2 max. NRF2 regulates the expression of antioxidant proteins and thus can influence the oxygen uptake.
Carriers of certain genotypes may respond better to training than the others.
|AA||57.5 % higher training response|
|CC||Normal training response|
Some genes affect a few secondary traits that exert influence on aerobic capacity.
For example, genetic variations in VEGF in the gene influence heart structure, size, and function. These have an impact on the stroke volume which is an important determinant of aerobic performance.
|GG||Reduced aerobic performance|
|CC||Normal aerobic performance|
Improving your Aerobic Capacity
Genetics is only 50% of the fitness story.
The rest wires down to other factors like your lifestyle, your eating habits, and your training.
Getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week is vital to ensure a longer healthier life
Augmenting your aerobic capacity can result in better blood and oxygen flow to muscles.
Therefore, this promotes faster recovery between sets and improves your flexibility.
Aerobic exercises include walking, running, cycling, swimming, and almost every other cardio workout.
When aerobic exercises are performed, your heart is trained to deliver more oxygen in a said span of time, and at the same time, your muscles are trained to utilize the oxygen delivered more efficiently.
To improve your aerobic capacity, it is important to understand how your body builds endurance.
It depends on the following three things:
- Heart rate (number of beats per minute)
- Stroke volume (amount of blood pumped out with each beat)
- Cardiac contractility (a measure of the force with which the heart muscles contract)
When you train to increase all the above-mentioned variables, naturally the amount of blood and oxygen, reaching your muscles increase.
This, in turn, has a positive effect on your overall athletic performance.
- HIIT workout (High-intensity interval training): Studies show that HIIT workouts increase the mitochondrial density.
This directly results in an increased amount of oxidative enzyme.
As a result, the functioning of your skeletal muscles is enhanced.
You can start with a simple 10-minute workout comprising of three sets.
Gradually you can increase the duration, and at the same time, try to fit in more sets.
- LISS training (Low-intensity steady-state training): LISS training is the less popular cousin of HIIT.
Though it is not as effective as HIIT in burning calories, it is a slow, steady, and lower-stress way to improve aerobic capacity.
Highly recommended aerobic exercises
Aerobic training usually, targets large muscle groups of your body that boost your heart rate for longer periods of time.
Some of the commonly recommended aerobic exercises include
- Walking and running: Other than helping you lose weight, walking, and running at moderate paces also help people with joint problems.
If you do not have access to outdoor space, treadmills can also work.
- Swimming: Water aerobics in general, are easy on your joints due to the buoyancy offered by the water.
- Cycling: Cycling is an amazing leg work out and exerts lesser stress on joints in comparison to walking or running.
Some of the aerobic exercises that you can do at home include:
- Jumping jacks
- Running in place
- Stair training
Other added benefits
If you are already not inspired to take up aerobics, take a look at the benefits you can acquire from aerobic training.
- Regular aerobic training improves your overall fitness.
- It reduces the risk of certain health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart diseases, colon, and breast cancer.
- Management of stress and other mental conditions, including anxiety and depression, can be made easier by including aerobic exercises in your workout schedule.
- Since aerobic exercises target larger muscle groups in your body, it helps with weight loss
- For people with asthma, aerobic exercises help reduce both the frequency and intensity of the asthma attacks.
- Brisk walking/running can improve overall bone health. In addition, studies have shown that regular aerobic training can reduce the risk of osteoarthritis.
- It improves the body's ability to use stored fat as energy.
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