Aerobic exercise is typically any type of fitness that raises your heart rate and increases blood flow to your muscles. It’s considered one of the main sources of fitness for people of all ages. But, you may wonder, why is aerobic exercise important?
Keep reading to discover the many potential health benefits connected with aerobic exercise and how to easily include an aerobic exercise program in your life.
What Is Aerobic Exercise?
Aerobic exercise is any activity that activates your aerobic metabolism to deliver oxygen to your body for energy. This reaction happens when you move large muscle groups at the same time, usually in a rhythmic way.1
Typically, aerobic exercise is done for extended periods of time to maintain an increased heart rate. A general rule of thumb is that aerobic exercise should increase your breathing — but it shouldn’t leave you breathless.2,3
Why Is Aerobic Exercise Important?
Aerobic exercise training is one of the four main sources of physical activity recommended for all adults (the other three are strength training, stretching, and balance exercises). By engaging your heart and lungs with aerobic activities, you send blood to muscles throughout your body. This stimulation supports many bodily functions that are crucial for maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle.4
Aerobic exercise is particularly important for older adults who may be at risk of ailments which can limit their independence. Regular exercise can help support your ability to perform daily tasks. This increased strength and resilience could potentially lead to a happier, more independent and healthy lifestyle.5
Potential Health Benefits Associated With Aerobic Exercise
Regular aerobic exercise is associated with a wide variety of health benefits, such as:
- Heart health support
- Support for healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels
- Weight loss support
- Lung function support
- Increased bone density6,7
Aerobic Exercise And Sleep
Aerobic activity may also support your mood and sleep. One study found that older adults who exercised regularly enjoyed better sleep quality and amounts of sleep.8
Aerobic Fitness And Mood
Research suggests that aerobic exercise contributes to a better mood overall. Even a quick aerobic workout can have almost immediate effects, and regular exercise may help to provide long-term mood enhancement.9
Aerobic Exercise And Life Expectancy
Including an aerobic exercise program in your daily activities may also lead to a longer life expectancy. Research shows that regular exercise may reverse some of the physiological changes brought on by aging.10
How Much Aerobic Exercise Do I Need?
The American Heart Association recommends that adults perform 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. Ideally, you should try to break this exercise up throughout the week.11
What Counts As Aerobic Exercise?
The term “aerobic exercise” may conjure images of the gym and spandex, but aerobic activity can be any type of physical activity. Doing chores around the house or playing with the kids in the backyard can all increase your heart rate and increase oxygen flow. The exact activity you do doesn’t matter, so long as you keep doing it long enough to increase your heart rate.12
You can find more traditional forms of aerobic exercises below.
Moderate Intensity Exercise
Examples of moderate intensity aerobic activity include:
- Brisk walking
- Aquatic exercises, like water aerobics
- Mowing the lawn13
High-Intensity Aerobic Exercise
Vigorous aerobic workouts can include these types of activities:
- Cross-country skiing
- Body weight exercises
- Fast bike riding
- Jumping rope
- Walking (briskly) up the stairs14
Different Methods For Your Aerobic Exercises
Tony Horton typically recommends people follow an aerobic exercise program that works for their lifestyle and schedule. If you have fun gardening and can easily spend 150 minutes a week in the tomato patch, then that’s great. You don’t need to learn martial arts or run a marathon to get that heart rate up 150 minutes a week.
Even multiple, quick spurts of activity during the day can yield big results. In fact, studies found that people who broke up their exercise into 10-minute blocks throughout the day improved their cardiovascular health more than those who did all their exercise at once.15
Tips For Starting Your Own Aerobic Exercise Program
There are many ways to accomplish your aerobic fitness goals throughout the day. You can follow a physical fitness plan, or simply do some chores around the house. There is no set way to accomplish your aerobic goals. However, there are some general guidelines that may help you begin or maintain a fitness regimen.
Note: Always speak to your health care provider before beginning any new aerobic exercise program.
Beginning A New Aerobic Exercise Program
It’s important to start slow if you’re just beginning a new aerobic exercise program. Even a few minutes of activity several times throughout the day can be beneficial. Perform activities that you are comfortable with, and start out slow. Then, as you begin to build your stamina and energy, slowly extend the length or frequency of your exercise.16
More Advanced Levels Of Fitness — Anaerobic Activities
Anaerobic exercises are high-intensity workouts that burn energy in the muscles, rather than oxygen. Doing short bursts of high-intensity interval training, like weight lifting or squats, can help build muscles and burn fat more effectively than aerobic exercise. However, this more advanced style of workout should only be attempted by someone with a strong fitness background. Speak to a doctor before doing any high-intensity, anaerobic workouts.17
Get Started With An Aerobic Exercise Plan That Works For You
Aerobic exercise can be many things, so long as your heart rate increases. The versatility of aerobic training can make it easy to incorporate into your workout schedule. This is great, because regular aerobic exercise is one of the most important things you can do for your health. It provides lots of potential health benefits that can help support your quality of life.
Tony Horton has laid out some simple ways to include 150 minutes of moderate activity into your week with the tips above. Start slow if you are new to fitness, and gradually increase the amount and intensity of your workout. Over time, your stamina and strength should increase so that you can keep doing more and more of the activities you love. Remember, always speak to a physician before starting out with any new fitness plan.