Aerobic exercise is defined as any activity that uses large muscle groups, is rhythmic in nature, and can be done continuously. The purpose of aerobic exercise is to improve cardiovascular fitness, but it can also provide other benefits such as:
- Increased circulation to all areas of the body
- Reduced body fat
- Reduced stress and tension
- Reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease
- Increased self-esteem
Remember, there are many levels of aerobic exercise. To ensure that you're getting a beneficial workout but not straining yourself too hard, you should exercise within your target heart rate zone.
Guidelines for aerobic exercise programs
- Start with 2-3 days a week, and increase frequency as you get more fit.
- Always warm up with 5-10 minutes of light activity and passive stretching before your workout to increase the blood flow to your muscles.
- Maintain your desired exercise intensity for 20-30 minutes. If 20 continuous minutes is too strenuous at first, try two 10-minute exercise sessions at different times during the day.
- Listen to your body. If your body tells you to take a break, do so.
- Always cool down with approximately 5 minutes of light activity.
- After your workout, spend 5-10 minutes stretching. One result of exercise is an increase in blood flow to all muscles; as a result your muscles are warmer so you can be a little more aggressive with your post-exercise stretches.
- Drink fluids before, during, and after your workout.
Here are some examples of aerobic exercises to get you started:
WALKING: A beneficial exercise for all levels. Average number of calories burned per hour: 300-400 (depending on speed).
RUNNING/JOGGING: A high intensity workout. Average number of calories burned per hour: 600.
SWIMMING: Swimming is considered to be one of the best overall workouts because it uses all of the major muscle groups with little risk for injury. Swim laps at a steady pace. Average number of calories burned per hour: 600.
BICYCLING: Its benefits include strengthening muscles and providing a low-impact alternative to jogging. Bicycling is a good choice because it can be done outside or inside, depending on the weather and your personal preference. Average number of calories burned per hour: 600.
ROWING: Rowing machines can be found at almost every gym. Rowing can be a great total body workout. Average number of calories burned per hour: 840.
Target heart rate
The purpose of exercising aerobically within a specific heart range is to ensure that the exercise is strenuous enough to improve your cardiovascular health.
Use this simple formula to figure out your target heart rate zone:
220 - (your age) = ______ x .55 = _____(low end of target zone)
220 - (your age) = ______ x .80 = _____(high end of target zone)
Once you know what your heart rate zone should be while exercising, check it every 5 minutes. Follow these simple steps:
- Take your pulse - Place two fingers on your wrist or press lightly on your neck. Count for 10 seconds, making sure to count the first beat as "0".
- Multiply this number by 6.
If your pulse falls within your target zone, you're doing fine. If it is below your target zone, exercise a little harder. And if you're above your zone, take it a little easier.
* Before embarking on this exercise program, please consult your family physician.