By performing aerobic training you will improve your ability to consume and utilise oxygen.
Why is this important to you? Because the more able your body is to consume and utilise oxygen, the better you’ll be able to produce energy and exercise for prolonged periods of steady exercise (this is your aerobic capacity or VO2 Max).
If your ultimate fitness goal is to run a marathon (or even only a few hundred meters or more), you’ll have to work on your aerobic training. End of story! The same goes for any aerobic exercise, like walking, cycling, swimming, and so on.
Your VO2 Max depends on the following.
Oxygen transport from your lungs to your muscle cells
Use of oxygen within your muscle cells
These are all very scientific, but for you, all you need to know is that you can improve your VO2 Max through appropriate aerobic training. Your training will improve the efficiency of your respiratory, cardiac, and vascular systems, which will improve the three points above.
Physiological Adaptations of Aerobic Exercise
Okay, you didn’t actually think I’d get through this article without a little geeky science did you? But I’ll keep it brief!
As your heart is forced to work harder, it responds by increasing in size (this is myocardium hypertrophy). This is good as your heart, being a muscle, will be able to contract with greater force.
This is beneficial as the greater the force or each beat, the more blood is pushed through your heart, which delivers more oxygenated blood to your muscle cells. Bottom line . . . your muscles will be able to work for longer.
Your respiratory system also responds by increasing your lung volume, respiratory muscles, and your diffusion rate (the rate at which the air you breathe is absorbed through your lungs.
This boils down to you being able to take in more oxygen with each breath!
Your vascular system also improves with endurance training. Capillary density in your lungs and muscles increase allowing a greater rate of gaseous exchange (oxygen in, carbon dioxide out).
Muscle changes also occur. They adapt by increasing the number of mitochondria (nicknamed the muscle cell’s power plants as they supply most of the energy), which allows a greater rate of aerobic respiration and use of oxygen. Basically, the more you have, the longer and harder you can work.
But I think that is enough to be going on with. There are many more physiological adaptations, but all you need to know is that by performing appropriate exercise you can maximise the efficiency of all these.
How Do You Improve VO2 Max Through Aerobic Training?
Basically, you have to perform steady exercise involving the whole body for a minimum of 12 minutes. However, you should build up to 30 to 40 minutes of continuous exercise.
Common exercises are walking, jogging, running, cycling, swimming, rowing, and many others. If you want to see long term physiological benefits you should exercise like this at least twice a week, but 5 sessions is not uncommon (depending on your ultimate goal).
If you work like this you should see definite changes after only 3 or 4 weeks, providing you apply a progressively greater workload (for example, run harder and longer). What you found hard on day 1 of your training routine should now be easy!