The Benefits of Aerobic Exercise
The importance of performing daily exercise or physical activity cannot be overstated. Staying active has been shown in countless studies to support weight management, cognitive development, and cardiovascular health (among so many other benefits).
In this Wellness Tip, we’re going to review the benefits of aerobic exercise along with our recommendations of how much and how often.
What is Aerobic Exercise?
Have you ever seen those people running on treadmills, drenched in sweat, and breathing hard? This is an example of someone performing aerobic exercise.
Aerobic exercise, also commonly referred to as cardio, cardiovascular conditioning, or endurance training, focuses on full-body movements that increase heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure. The focus is not on increasing muscle size or improving muscle strength, but more so to stimulate our body’s cardiopulmonary system (aka our heart and lungs).
Aerobic exercise places a unique demand on the body that requires you to breathe more and deeper in order to get usable oxygen to the heart and muscles. The more conditioned you are, the greater your rate of oxygen consumption, or how much oxygen your body can efficiently use.
Examples of Aerobic Exercise
Examples of aerobic exercise can be broken down into the following categories: at-home, gym, and fitness class.
- At-Home Aerobic Exercise
- Resistance training (e.g., high-intensity interval training or HIIT)
- Household chores that make you break a sweat (e.g., mowing the lawn)
- Gym / Fitness Center Aerobic Exercise
- Endurance-focused resistance training (e.g., weightlifting)
- Swimming (e.g., Olympic-sized pool)
- Stationary cardio machine (e.g., bike, treadmill, stepper, elliptical)
- Fitness Classes
- Hot yoga or advanced yoga
- Zumba or other dance class
How Much Aerobic Exercise Do You Need?
One of the best resources for aerobic exercise requirements comes from the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans and the Center for Disease Control. These guidelines state that to receive the full benefits of exercise, you must participate in both aerobic and muscle-strengthening each week. (1)
We’re covering aerobic exercise in this Wellness Tip but click here to read our blog on muscle-strengthening exercises.
Your weekly exercise program should consist of one of the following:
150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week
Example: Five days per week of 30 minutes of a combination of the following:
Chores such as cutting the grass with a push mower
75 minutes of high-intensity exercise per week
Example: Three days per week of 25 minutes of a combination of the following:
High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
Fitness classes: spin, kickboxing, Zumba
A combination of both moderate and high-intensity exercise per week
· Example: Two days per week of 30 minutes of cycling and two days of 10 minutes of HIIT
For even greater health benefits, or if you want more of a challenge, you can push yourself to accomplish one of the following fitness goals:
Complete five hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week
Complete 2 hours and 30 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise each week
Complete 150 to 300 minutes of a mix of moderate and vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise each week
Tips for Performing Aerobic Exercise
Whether you’re new to aerobic exercise or you’ve been doing it for years, here are a few tips to keep in mind before beginning a new aerobic exercise program.
Schedule Yourself: It’s one thing to say that you’ll start working out; it’s another to sit down and create a schedule to do it. Commit yourself to your fitness goals by scheduling a block of time to exercise or get active. Stay consistent and don’t allow yourself to back out unless an emergency calls for it.
Start Slow and Simple: When completing aerobic exercise, it is best to keep it simple and set a reasonable goal based on your fitness experience. You don’t want to push yourself too hard on the first day. Start with a goal that is just outside of your comfort zone, making it progressively more challenging every other week.
Make it Enjoyable: If you find exercise to be a chore, choose aerobic activities that are enjoyable to you. For example, if you love to go jogging or cycling through nature, make these activities the foundation of your aerobic exercise program.
Daily Routine: If you drive to work or take public transportation, try riding your bike, rollerblading, or walking instead. You can still entertain yourself by listening to podcasts or audiobooks. When going about your day, make choices that get you to be more active: take the stairs, park further away from your destination, and use a standing desk.
Switch It Out: While it might be tough at first, make it a point to get active instead of jumping on the couch after work.
Find a Workout Buddy: Studies show that you are more likely to accomplish your fitness goals if you have a friend with you with a similar goal. Working out with friends creates an accountability factor; you don’t want to let each other down and you want to celebrate one another’s successes. (2)
Starting an Aerobic Exercise Program? We Can Help!
Want a custom-made aerobic exercise program that’s ideal for your fitness level and medical history? Have you been performing aerobic exercise and you recently sustained an injury? We can help!
Our expert trainers can create an effective and safe aerobic exercise program for you. And if your current aerobic exercise program is causing you pain, we can locate the source of the issue and put you on a path to correct it. Stop in or give us a call at 773-878-7330.
“2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Summary.” Summary – 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines, health.gov/paguidelines/2008/summary.aspx.
Irwin, B.C., Scorniaenchi, J., Kerr, N.L. et al. Aerobic Exercise Is Promoted when Individual Performance Affects the Group: A Test of the Kohler Motivation Gain Effect. ann. behav. med. (2012) 44: 151. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12160-012-9367-4