A few months after I gave birth, a friend advised me to join aerobic classes if I wanted to lose weight. Desperate to regain my pre-pregnancy weight, I searched around for a health club in my neighbourhood that offered aerobic classes.
It was only after I signed up that I learnt that like most exercises, the amount of aerobic exercise you take part in depends on a person’s fitness levels and any predisposing health condition at the time. As a result, even though I had a normal delivery, I started bleeding again. Marcy Atim faced a similar experience, which she says almost killed her.
“I joined aerobics classes at a local gym about a month ago. I wanted to maintain a healthy weight so I decided I would do it five times a week. At the beginning, I was excited because I had heard many good things about aerobics and thought it was a simple exercise,” says Atim.
At that time, she weighed 85 kilogrammes and her self-confidence was low. As a result, she did not feel confortable wearing short skirts or jeans, as they made her look even bigger. Instead, she opted for over-sized clothes to hide her weight.
“My target was to shed off six kilogrammes in one month so I never skipped my aerobics classes. However, two weeks into the programme, my muscles started to pain and I had difficulty in breathing,” says Atim.
She ignored the pain and the symptoms until one evening when, during one of her classes, she felt dizzy and thought it was a case of dehydration. All she remembers thereafter was waking up on a hospital bed.
Patrick Mucheme, a fitness instructor at Garden City Fitness Centre, says people who start out on any fitness programme need to keep it moderate, before gradually moving to high intensity programmes. He says even for aerobics, which people always consider to be an easier exercise programme, starting at a moderate level is recommended. “If you have spent a long time without doing being active, it is better to start with light activities that last about 30 minutes, three times a week.
You will need another two to three days away from exercise to help your muscles relax,” Mucheme says.
Mucheme defines aerobics as any activity that uses large muscle groups for an extended period of time, in a recurrent nature.
“During aerobic exercise, your heart rate and breathing increases,” he says. “People of any age and weight can benefit from aerobics but they need to first undergo a health check to ensure they are physically fit to go through the rigorous process that comes with the exercise,” he says.
Mucheme classifies aerobics in five categories.
This is a high intensity form of aerobics that aims to strengthen and build body muscle. It is also a recommended form of women.
Just like the name, it involves use of dance moves to do workouts. It is suitable for young people since it involves a lot of energy to dance to the fast paced music.
This workout involves box jumps (a multi-joint exercise that includes use of bench press-ups and squat, strength training. This exercise helps to strengthen muscles.
Also known as low impact exercise, it emphasises the balanced development of the body through joint mobility, posture, strength and flexibility.
Pilates include between 25 and 50 repetitive low-impact exercises, most of which can be done on a floor mat with no extra equipment required. If you are over 40 or have health problems, pilates is the recommended exercise.
This one involves the use of elevated platforms (or steps) to make body movements.
Muchene says during aerobics, a person usually breathes faster and deeply, in order to get extra oxygen to their lungs.
As a result, the heart also beats faster to deliver more oxygen-carrying blood from the lungs to the muscles.
“This is why it is recommended that before a person starts on any exercise, they need to consult their doctors to avoid cases of stroke or heart attack that could occur as a result of limited oxygen getting into heart,” says Muchene.
“For people who suffer from heart related diseases, we always insist that they present a medical form before starting any form of workout. This helps us to know which exercise will suit them well,” he adds.
Following a strict balanced diet plan is also a key element in aerobics because one must eat right to avoid malnutrition. For people who do aerobics purposely to lose weight, Mucheme recommends they include plenty of protein in their diet. “Foods that are rich in carbohydrates are also recommended because they boost energy levels,” says Muchene.
Dr Hawa Nakanwagi, a general practitioner at Mukwaya General Hospital, Nsambya, says aerobic exercises come with benefits such as lower risk of heart disease, better cholesterol and blood control and increased respiratory health.“People of all ages can benefit from regular aerobic exercises,” she says.