The popularity of aerobics classes may date back to the days of legwarmers and Sweating to the Oldies, but aerobic conditioning remains an important part of any exercise routine or training program.
Aerobic conditioning, also referred to as cardiovascular or cardiorespiratory conditioning or fitness, is directly related to strengthening the heart; or rather, the heart’s ability to pump oxygenated blood throughout the body’s muscles. As such, aerobic exercise helps our body’s utilization of the oxygenated blood, thereby making our bodies stronger and more efficient.
What is Aerobic Conditioning?
Aerobic, which actually means “with oxygen,” encompasses the amount of oxygen that transfers to the muscles to help them burn fuel and move.
Aerobic exercise can be as easy and undemanding as a relaxing stroll or as demanding and strenuous as running a marathon. But the concept of aerobic conditioning and the health benefits that result are undeniable:
- Improves cardiovascular conditioning
- Decreases the risk of heart disease
- Lowers blood pressure
- Lowers blood cholesterol levels
- Increases HDL or “good” cholesterol levels
- Controls blood sugar
- Facilitates weight loss
- Assists in weight management
- Improves lung function
- Decreases resting heart rate
- Lowers stress and anxiety
Types of Aerobic Exercise
As a personal trainer, aerobic conditioning will likely be an integral part of your clients’ training program, regardless of their age, physical limitations, or fitness goals. The type and frequency of aerobic exercises you choose for your clients will depend on their age and physical limitations, but will usually fall under the category of low- or high-impact and will involve achieving a target heart rate and not exceeding a maximum heart rate. Low-impact aerobic exercise often includes activities such as cycling and walking, while high-impact aerobic exercise includes activities like jumping rope and running.
Other types of aerobic exercise include:
- Step aerobics
- Skiing (downhill, cross-country)
- Stair climbing machine
- Elliptical machine
- Weight lifting
- Water skiing
- Rowing machine
Aerobic Conditioning and Personal Training
As a personal trainer, your focus should be on, at a minimum, ensuring that your clients meet the American Heart Association’s recommendation of at least 30 minutes of exercise, 5 to 7 times per week. Similarly, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends a minimum of three, 30-minute moderate-to-vigorous workouts per week to improve cardiorespiratory fitness and help manage weight.
Your aerobic conditioning personal training program should be focused on a number of factors, including:
Intensity: You will design your clients’ aerobic conditioning program based on their limitations, their goals, and their current fitness level. You will always monitor their heart rate and determine their appropriate heart rate (based on their age and fitness level), as it will directly correlate with the intensity of the exercise.
Warm-up and Cool-Down: Every session of aerobic exercise should begin with a warm-up and end with a cool-down. The warm-up period should include a gradual increase in both pace and intensity as to allow the blood flow to the muscles to gradually increase. The cool-down period should include a gradual decrease in both pace and intensity. Both the warm-up and cool-down periods should last between 5 and 10 minutes.
Progression of Aerobic Exercise: Aerobic conditioning should always include the progression to higher intensities of exercise, based on your clients’ exercise tolerance. As a personal trainer, you will achieve progression by:
- Increasing the speed
- Increasing the resistance
- Increasing the duration
- Incorporating interval training (combines high intensity periods separated by rest periods)
- Incorporating Fartlek training (continuous aerobic activity with changes in speed or work rate)
How to Become a Personal Trainer Specializing in Aerobic Conditioning
To become a personal trainer who specializes in cardiovascular conditioning, you will need to complete a course of study through a degree program in a major related to fitness and health promotion, or earn a specialty certification, or both.
Degree Programs in Personal Training
One of the most comprehensive educational routes to becoming a personal trainer involves the completion of an associate or bachelor’s degree in personal training, or a related area, such as:
- Exercise science
- Exercise physiology
- Physical education
- Sports medicine
Degree programs in these majors are designed to emphasize the biological, psychological, and socio-cultural foundations of physical mechanics. As such, core coursework in these programs often include:
- Exercise physiology
- Aspects of strength and conditioning
- Exercise programming and prescription
Certification Programs in Personal Training and Aerobic Conditioning
Professional certification programs have become popular in the personal fitness industry. These programs, which include a course of study followed by a certification examination, are offered by a number of professional organizations, such as:
- American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
- American Council on Exercise (ACE)
- American Fitness Professional and Associates (AFPA)
- International Sports Science Association (ISSA)
- National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
- National Council for Certified Personal Trainers (NCCPT)
- National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
- The Cooper Institute
You may choose professional certification based on the program design (some are offered through campus programs, while some are offered online), the organization’s personal training philosophy, or on its national accreditation status (The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) remains the main accrediting body for personal training certification programs in the U.S.).
In addition to general personal training certification, you may also choose to achieve professional certification based on your specialization. As a personal trainer who specializes in aerobic conditioning, you may want to achieve specialty certification through:
- Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA), Aerobics Certification
- American Council on Exercise: Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist
- International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), Youth Fitness Certification, Senior Fitness Certification, Elite Trainer Certification