Aerobic exercise is any activity that uses large muscle groups, can be maintained continuously for a long period of time, and is rhythmic in nature - think running or skiing. Aerobic exercises utilize oxygen as fuel for sustaining metabolic activity for fairly long periods of time. Your body's aerobic system is made up of your heart, lungs, and blood vessels. Your body’s aerobic capacity is the maximum amount of oxygen the body can use during a specified period of time, and is based on how effectively oxygen is delivered to your muscles during your workout. Therefore, as your aerobic workouts increase in duration and intensity, the faster you’re able to take in and transport oxygen.
If you're just beginning an aerobic or cardio workout, be sure to choose something that you enjoy so you'll look forward to doing it consistently. A regular aerobic exercise program will reduce blood pressure, strengthen your heart and lungs, and reduce the risk of diabetes, heart attack, and stroke. Other benefits include enhancing your self-esteem, helping you to lose or maintain weight, lowering your blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and even increasing your sexual stamina (and who doesn’t want that?)! Cardio also helps to reduce stress and improve your sleep patterns. All of these results are possible, even if the intensity is low and in short intervals. Remember, there is no “right” cardio exercise. You should choose an exercise that you enjoy and increase duration and intensity over time. Even if you have to start slow, you’re still lapping everyone sitting on the couch!
Aerobic exercises fall in two categories:
Low to Moderate Impact Aerobics – Some examples include walking, swimming, stair-climbing, step classes, biking, light water aerobics, rowing and cross-country skiing. Nearly anyone in reasonable health can engage in low- to moderate-impact exercise. In fact, did you know that brisk walking burns more calories than jogging the same distance? This is because it takes more time to walk than jog that distance. This is helpful to people unable to participate in high impact exercises due to joint problems - walking poses less risk for injury to muscle and bone than running.
High-Impact Aerobics – Some activities that fall into this category include running, tennis, plyometrics, racquetball, basketball, soccer, and squash. Keep in mind that high-impact aerobics should be performed on alternate days to avoid strains or injuries, as this type of exercise is intense. People who are overweight, elderly, out of shape or who have an injury or other medical problem should do these exercises even less frequently, and only with clearance from their doctor.
Aerobic exercise is important to burn calories, tone muscles, increase cardiovascular health, and improve your overall bodily performance! If you’re unsure as to what your best option is, consult a trainer or physician to create an exercise plan tailored to your individual needs. Interested in learning about more fun and exciting exercise options? Check out FITTODO’s Sports and Activities Section (insert link) and find the sport that’s perfect for you!