What is aerobic exercise? Definition

Aerobic exercise is sustained and rhythmic physical activity of a relatively low to moderate intensity involving a large group of muscles for a prolonged duration.

This exercise is also referred to as cardiovascular exercise or just “cardio” because it improves pulmonary and cardiovascular function and blood flow throughout the body.

This type of exercise bestows the best benefits on the body besides being the most effective exercise for weight loss, to lose belly fat, and to control health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and more.

There are varieties of these exercises that are effective and that you can do at home without having to go to a gym. A whole list explains them and some more for which you may have to venture outdoors.

It is recommended that you warm up, cool down, and do some stretching exercises before and after your aerobic exercise session.

What happens when you do aerobic exercise?

The word “aerobic” means “requiring oxygen (air) or depending on oxygen”. In this type of exercise, you repeatedly move the large group of muscles of your arms, legs, and hips such as in running or swimming. This exercise is performed with moderate intensity over a long period.

For example, you run for a long time, which qualifies as an aerobic activity, while you sprint over a short time, which therefore does not qualify as an aerobic activity but classifies as the anaerobic type.

As the aerobic exercise progresses, you start breathing faster and more deeply. Your body depends on that oxygen, which you breathe in for energy to perform these aerobic exercises.

You take in more oxygen, which enriches your blood and this gets carried to all parts of the body including the minutest of body cells. The word “aerobic” refers to the use of oxygen to meet the additional demand of the body during aerobic exercises.

Examples (list) of aerobic exercises for men and women at home and outdoors

You can do aerobic exercises indoors at home or in a gym and outdoors.

The following is the list of aerobic exercises and you can always switch from one to another if you get particularly bored with doing just one type of exercise.

You could even combine these aerobic exercises in your daily exercise routine, doing either two or three of them, which you enjoy.

Some you can do at home, while for some you will have to visit the gym or the boat club.

1. Aerobic exercises you can do at home or at the health club

  • Jump rope
  • Aerobic dancing
  • Stair climbing
  • Step aerobics – stepping to the music
  • Aerobic DVDs – aerobic dancing to DVD music
  • Circuit training

2. Aerobic exercise you can do at the boat club:

  • Skiing
  • Rowing
  • Swimming

3. Aerobic exercises you can do outdoors

4. Aerobics you can do at the martial art studio

  • Kickboxing

5. Best aerobic exercise

People often question: Which is the best aerobic exercise? You or anyone for that matter cannot pinpoint any particular aerobic exercise to be the best. All of them bestow benefits that are similar.

Just choose the exercise, which suits you best and which you enjoy. This will help you stay at it consistently and you will perform the exercise every day which will give the best benefits.

Changes in the body during aerobic exercise

During aerobic physical activity, you breathe in faster and more deeply enriching your blood with more oxygen.

Your heart beats more rapidly thereby increasing blood flow through the now-widened blood vessels to all parts of the body including the minute body cells. Wastes such as carbon dioxide and lactic acid are also carried away more efficiently.

Regular aerobic activity improves the strength and functioning of the heart and lungs as these organs get more developed because they have to work more during these workouts. Your body also releases endorphins when you exercise, which gives you a feeling of well-being.

How much and how often should you do aerobic exercise?

How often should you do aerobic exercise workouts? Here are two recommendations for this query.

1) The Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health (United States) recommends that all adults should accumulate 30 minutes of moderate-intensive activity on most if not all days of the week.  What this means is that these minutes of aerobic activity need not be done in one sitting but can be spaced out throughout the day in two or three sessions.

2) The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 20-60 minutes of continuous aerobic activity three to five times a week, at 60%-90% of maximum heart rate, and two to three days of resistance training. This means that activities such as swimming, walking, running, and dancing should be done in one session.

Both these recommendations will give good results and you could follow anyone, which suits you. But, the fact remains that to derive more benefits, you require to be more active – whether it is longer less frequent workouts or shorter more frequent ones.

Benefits of aerobic exercise

The functions and the benefits of regular aerobic exercise on the body are multi-systemic, meaning; they have a positive health effect on the many systems of our body.

1. Improves cardiovascular condition and function

The term “cardiovascular” means the heart (cardio) and the network of blood vessels (vascular). Regular aerobic activity makes the cardiovascular system more efficient to carry nutrients and oxygen to the various tissues of the body and remove carbon dioxide and other wastes from them.

2. Improves lung capacity and function

Regular aerobic activity makes your lungs stronger. It also strengthens the diaphragm and the respiratory muscles (muscles between the ribs) stronger, which improves the power of inhaling and exhaling.

This leads to improved lung capacity, which leads to a better exchange of gases in the lungs and a richer supply of oxygen to the organs and tissues of the body.

3. Lowers blood pressure

Regular aerobic exercise makes a strong heart, which then can pump more blood with a lesser effort. When your heart has to work less the force of the blood being pumped out also lessens thereby lowering your blood pressure.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), in normal non-hypertensive people, regular exercise reduced systolic blood pressure by 3 to 5 mm of Hg and diastolic pressure by 2 to 3 mm of Hg. In hypertensive people, the systolic pressure is reduced by 7 mm of Hg, while the diastolic by 5 mm of Hg.

4. Increases HDL the good cholesterol

High-density lipoprotein is the good cholesterol, optimum levels of which are good for heart health. It helps to get rid of LDL cholesterol, the bad cholesterol from the blood by carrying it to the liver and preventing its buildup in the blood.

Besides boosting the levels of High-Density Cholesterol (HDL), aerobic activities like brisk walking increased HDL’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity.

5. Helps to better control blood sugar

When you exercise, your heart beats faster and you breathe more rapidly to fulfill the requirement of your body muscles that are being exercised.

The body requires energy for any physical activity and it gets this energy by taking the glucose from the blood and converting it into energy for the physical activity.

This is better facilitated because aerobic exercise increases insulin sensitivity so that the cells of the muscles are better able to uptake glucose from the blood. This is how regular aerobic exercise can help control your excess blood sugar.

6. Help in weight loss and weight maintenance

Daily aerobic workouts burn huge amounts of calories from your body. If done in an intensive manner, aerobics can burn more calories than any other type of exercise in one session.

To maintain weight, calories burnt must equal calorie intake. To lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume.

You need to burn a certain amount of calories to knock off one pound of body weight.

7. Regular aerobic activity decreases the risk of heart disease

As mentioned above, regular aerobic exercise controls as well as reduces the risk of many comorbidities that include high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and more.

It improves lung function thereby providing your body organs including the heart and tissues with better oxygen circulation.

It improves your lipid profile by improving your HDL (good cholesterol) levels and flushing out the LDL (bad cholesterol) artery-clogging cholesterol out of your system. This helps to prevent atherosclerosis, maintain clear flowing blood vessels, and good blood circulation to all parts of the body including the heart.

It improves cardiovascular condition and function, keeps your heart healthy, and reduces the risk of heart attack and other heart conditions.

8. Benefits on the brain

By maintaining good oxygen-rich circulation to the brain through a healthier heart and better lung function, regular endurance aerobic activity improves brain health, enhances cognitive performance, and significantly reduces the risk of developing dementia.

It also helps to reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety if they are present.