Every exercise program should include some aerobic activities. The health benefits are many, and it is fairly easy to fit into your daily routine. If you are interested in increasing your aerobic activity, this information will get you started.

The Benefits of Aerobic Exercise

In aerobic exercise, you continually move large muscle groups. This action causes you to breathe more deeply and your heart to work harder to pump blood. This strengthens your heart and lungs.

There is strong evidence that the health benefits associated with regular exercise include:

Examples of Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercises include:

  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Running
  • Aerobic dance
  • Bicycling
  • Swimming
  • Hiking
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Playing team sports that involve running, such as basketball and soccer

Getting Started

Before starting an exercise program, check with your doctor about any possible medical problems. This is especially important if you have a chronic condition. If you are new to exercise, consider making an appointment with a certified athletic trainer to help you develop a safe, effective, and enjoyable exercise program. You can find a trainer at a local gym or through a referral from your doctor or a friend.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services offers these exercise guidelines for adults:

  • Adults should complete at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.
  • For greater health benefits, adults should increase their aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity or 150 minutes a week of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity or a combination of both.
  • Aerobic activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes and it should be spread throughout the week.

Older adults should follow the same guidelines as adults, but should also keep the following in mind:

  • When older adults cannot do 150 minutes of moderate–intensity aerobic activity a week due to chronic conditions, they should be as physically active as possible (some activity is better than no activity).
  • Older adults should determine their level of effort relative to their level of fitness.

Children and adolescents have the following key guidelines regarding aerobic activity:

  • Participate in 1 hour or more of physical activity daily.
  • Most of the hour should be either moderate– or vigorous–intensity physical activity
  • The activity should include vigorous-intensity activity least 3 days a week

Tips for getting started:

  • Short episodes of activity are appropriate for people who are new to aerobic exercise.
  • Warm up to gradually increase your heart rate and breathing before an activity. A warm up before jogging might consist of brisk walking.
  • Slowly increase the intensity of your activity. If you are aiming for a moderate-intensity aerobic activity, you should be able to talk during the activity. If you are doing a vigorous-intensity activity, you can't say more than a few words without pausing for a breath.
  • Cool down with some stretching after an activity to gradually decrease your heart rate and breathing at the end of an activity. This will also help with flexibility and range of motion.